By Justin Davis – Agence France Presse, Copyright AFP2004
British Olympic hopeful David Millar said on Wednesday he had nothing to worry about as police in France continued their doping investigation into the country’s number one cycling team.
Millar, the 27-year-old leader of Cofidis and world time trial champion, maintains that the arrests of several current and former members of his team on suspicion of using and distributing banned substances are simply “isolated” cases and in no way reflect the way the team is managed.
Riders Cedric Vasseur and Philippe Gaumont were arrested by police on Tuesday (see “French drug probe: Vasseur and Gaumont arrested”)on their way back from the team’s training camp, adding to the arrests of two other team others and the team’s soigneur last week.
Millar, who is hugely popular in cycling-mad France, suggested the whole affair has been blown out of proportion.
“I can’t really comment on the latest developments, and I’ve no idea who has been questioned,” the Scot told AFP from Bilbao on Wednesday. “All I can say is that it’s not a Cofidis problem, and it’s certainly got nothing to do with me. But I’m surprised to hear about police questioning Philippe and Cedric – I know both of them and get on really well with them. It’s strange, very strange.
“The press are implying all sorts of things but I know it’s not a Cofidis problem. I repeat what I told the press last week, that it’s isolated cases in the team, but not a team problem.”
Millar has recently finished the team’s training camp in Spain, from where Polish soigneur Bogdan Madejak was recalled by the team after ex-Cofidis team member Marek Rutkiewicz – also from Poland – was arrested at a Paris airport, allegedly in possession of banned substances.
Shortly afterwards, a stash of banned drugs, including the endurance booster EPO and human growth hormones, are alleged to have been found at the home of former Cofidis rider Robert Sassone, who has won world titles for France in track cycling and should have been aiming for an Olympic medal in Athens this year.
Sassone is believed, according to reports in Wednesday’s L’Equipe newspaper, to have given police the names of both Gaumont and Vasseur.
The arrest of Gaumont and Vasseur, who wore the Tour de France yellow jersey for six days in 1997, appears to have left Cofidis further in the mire.
Asked if he thought it could be compared in any way to the Festina affair, which almost brought the Tour de France to its knees in 1998, Millar hit back. “Oh God, no way! There’s no way it’s anything like that.”
“I can’t comment on what some other guys in the team have done,” he added, “but I’m not worried about it. I’ve got enough stress worrying about my own plans for this season to worry about what’s going on with them.”