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Sassone placed under investigation; Cofidis files suit
By VeloNews Interactive, Copyright AFP2004
Two riders from the Cofidis team were arrested at Orly airport in Paris on Tuesday on their return from a training camp as the investigation into doping and drug trafficking within the French team widened.
Drugs squad officers detained Cedric Vasseur and Philippe Gaumont as they stepped off a flight from Alicante, Spain, and took them away for questioning.
Meanwhile, the team’s sponsor, the Cofidis group, which supplies personal loans by telephone, announced Tuesday it was launching legal action for defamation over the doping accusations.
Vasseur, 33, won a stage in the 1997 Tour de France and was a former teammate of five-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong at the US Postal team, while Gaumont won a bronze medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, but five years later was suspended for doping.
Their arrests came after former world Madison champion Robert Sassone was placed under judicial investigation by a Paris judge on Tuesday after police completed analysis of a stash of doping products found in his home during a police search last week.
Judge Henri Pallain took the first step towards formal charges against the 25-year-old former Cofidis rider after banned products including amphetamines, Erythropoietin (EPO), growth hormones, testosterone and other anabolic steroids were found during a search of his home in Hyeres in southern France last week.
The probe was part of an investigation into current and former staff and riders from the Cofidis cycling team. Sassone was placed in police custody but later released.
France’s top cycling team was under the spotlight last week after Polish rider Marek Rutkiewicz, who left Cofidis for the RAGT-Semences team at the end of the 2003 season, was arrested alongside Cofidis soigneur Bogdan Madejak.
Madejak is accused of being part of a smuggling ring and has now been suspended by the team, which boasts a string of top riders including world champions David Millar (time trial) and Igor Astarloa (road).
Sassone, who turned professional in 2000, won a gold in the Madison at the world track championhips the following year. He was a member of the Cofidis team until last season and joined Division III Oktos-Saint-Quentin team this year.