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By Agence France Presse
Italian Tour de France rider Dario Frigo was charged on Wednesday after customs officers found banned drugs in his wife’s car.
His wife, who was stopped on the motorway on Tuesday with what was understood to be about 10 doses of the endurance-boosting drug EPO (erythropoietin), was also facing a charge in connection with a customs offense.
Later Wednesday, the couple were charged with “helping and assisting in the use of doping products, contraband and importing” by a judge in Albertville.
They were released on bail. Frigo, 31, is banned from taking part in the sport while the inquiry is carried out. The Fassa Bortolo rider had been lying 52nd in the Tour.
The former Paris-Nice and Romandy Tour winner is no stranger to doping scandals, having been forced to pull out of the 2001 Giro d’Italia when Italian police found drugs in his hotel room when he was lying second.
French police will be reluctant to let him go without pressing charges as they are still trying to extradite Lithuanian rider Raimondas Rumsas from Italy on doping charges relating to the 2002 Tour de France, where he finished third.
Afterward, French custom officers arrested Rumsas’ wife with drugs in her car.
Rumsas, who lives in Italy, has not been back to France since then and was recently held briefly on a European arrest warrant in Florence as French authorities tried to get him extradited to face a court hearing scheduled for November.
Frigo was the second rider implicated during this year’s Tour. Russia’s Yevgeni Petrov was thrown out of the Tour on Tuesday after failing a blood test while sitting 45th overall.
Fassa Bortolo sporting director Bruno Cenghialta insisted the team had nothing to do with the drugs find.
“We were the ones who told the police she (Frigo’s wife) had come to the hotel,” he said. “I hadn’t been told she would be coming. He’s the one who has got to come up with the answers. We’re furious.”
Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc welcomed the police intervention and said if found guilty Frigo had no place in cycling.
“The police play an important role in the war on drugs,” he said. “If the allegations are founded, it makes him a habitual offender. He’s one of that generation of riders who should disappear as quickly as possible to make way for young riders who respect the rules and ethics of the sport.”
Deputy director Christian Prudhomme, who takes over from Leblanc next year, insisted it was an isolated case.
“All we ask for is for drug cheats to be caught,” he added.
Doping teams have tested 129 riders since the Tour started 12 days ago.