MARSEILLE, France (AFP) —Remy Di Gregorio appeared in court here on Thursday and was charged with doping-related offenses, his lawyer announced.
The 26-year-old French rider “was charged with being in possession of supposed doping products,” said lawyer Domnique Mattei after emerging from the hearing.
A Marseille-based doctor who was also arrested has since admitted mixing blood from Di Gregorio with ozone and reinjecting it in a bid to improve the cyclist’s performance, authories allege.
The doctor, 75, faces charges of “using banned substances or procedures on an athlete” and “the illegal practice of medicine” and remains in custody.
The equipment found in Di Gregorio’s possession was a glucose injection kit, which requires prior medical justification during competition, Marseille magistrate Jacques Dallest said.
If found guilty the cyclist risks a one-year prison sentence and a 3,750 euro fine, Dallest told a press conference.
Di Gregorio, who was suspended by his Cofidis team following his arrest Tuesday and has dropped out of the Tour de France, admits receiving injections, but denies any charges of doping.
“I can assure you that I have never doped, except if someone tricked me,” he said. “The people who support me should know that I can look myself in the mirror, justice will do the rest.
“Unfortunately the Tour is over, but the hardest thing is over and I still have the future in front of me.”
Mattei challenged the decision to charge the cyclist.
“What is the line between a high-level physical preparation advised by experts and doping? he said. “What is regrettable is that Mr. Di Gregorio has been suspended from the Tour de France while there is no certainty that he has taken doping products.”
Di Gregorio was arrested following a police raid at his team’s hotel in Bourg-en-Bresse outside Macon in eastern France on Tuesday as part of an investigation into the organized trafficking of doping substances.
He was taken to Marseille for further questioning along with two other men, who were suspected of “having dealings” with Di Gregorio.
One of the two other men was released on Wednesday. He was said to have been in possession of vitamins, nutritional supplements, transfusion kits and other products, which are still being analyzed.
“This individual was a friend who had come from Marseille to drop off the products, bought by the rider over the Internet,” said Dallest.
Cofidis, no stranger to doping scandals, pledged to dismiss Di Gregorio if charges of doping or attempted doping are confirmed.
“If the suspicions are confirmed, he will be sacked immediately in accordance with the stipulations in his contract and in line with the ethical policy of the team,” a Cofidis team statement said.
Ozone — the product at the center of the case — is used for purification purposes at both the medical and industrial level. But its value as a therapy or performance-enhancer remains a subject of debate.
Nevertheless, for Dallest it amounts to a prohibited doping method.
“We’re talking about medical or paramedical practices which are prohibited. We might not be dealing with a doping substance, but the method is prohibited,” said the magistrate.
At least four injections were carried out on Di Gregorio between the end of May and the end of June, Dallest said.
He added that the doctor, who has an office in Marseille, led a “luxury lifestyle” and that police found 26,000 euros in cash at his home.