French authorities have gone quiet in the wake of a headline-grabbing hotel raids in September. Quintana, recovering from knee surgery in Colombia, has repeatedly said he broke no rules.
Speaking to French daily Ouest France, Hubert said he remains in the dark about the status of the inquiry, and only hopes that things are resolved sooner than later before questions spill over into the 2021 racing season.
“We always tried to things the right way, and we have nothing to blame, so that’s why we made ourselves available to the police,” Hubert told the French newspaper. “As of today, I do not much more. The only thing I see is that everyone is free to practice their profession.”
News broke in September that police searched team hotel rooms in Méribel near the decisive climbing stage at Col de la Loze. Authorities found saline solutions and injection equipment, and later questioned Quintana, his brother Dayer, Winner Anacona, and other team staffers after opening an official inquiry.
Since then, no official charges have been filed and the case has gone quiet. Quintana insisted that he’s always raced according to the rules, insisting that materials found by police were legal vitamin supplements.
In the interview, Hubert opened up about his thoughts and frustrations for the first time since the investigation began in September.
“What I want more than anything is that light to be shed on all of this,” he said. “It’s bad now, and I want this bad time to be over. Even the riders, Nairo and Dayer, they don’t understand. They went to be questioned, they were released, and they were never in police custody. It’s all under a preliminary investigation … and we don’t have any access to the files.”
The police search brought negative headlines, but so far, no official charges have been made against anyone. Hubert said he’s hopeful the matter will be settled before the new season begins.
“I only ask that justice be done, one way or the other,” he said. “Either there is something there, or it’s closed. Unfortunately, these investigations can sometimes last for months.”
Hubert said that if the situation was truly disturbing, more information would have been released by authorities, and added that he is backing Quintana for now. Quintana and his brother, Dayer, joined the French team in 2020, and both are under contract through 2022.
“I have no doubts,” he said about Quintana, before adding, “I have no facts. I have nothing. [The Quintana brothers] don’t know anything, either. [Quintana will be on the team in 2021] unless there is something proven. If he was going to be indicted, he would have already been.”
Hubert said he knew nothing about the materials found by police, which included needles, saline solution and injection equipment, that have been called “health products” as well as possible doping products by authorities. The UCI has a no-needle policy, and only allows injections for health reasons.
“I am convinced that we always respected the rules,” Hubert said. “There are questions, of course. Our sponsors are backing us, but they want to know the end of the story, too. And only [the courts] can say that.”
Worries about spot in 2021 Tour de France
Hubert also said the team did not consider offers to buy out WorldTour licenses from such suitors at CCC or NTT, which were on the ropes following sponsor problems. CCC’s license was bought out by Circus-Wanty Gobert, while the South African team will ride on following the arrival last week of new sponsor Assos.
“I never considered it,” Hubert said of buying a WorldTour license. “Things are going well with our sponsors. I received offers, but if we are going to join the WorldTour, we want to do it through sporting progression only.”
Hubert expressed concern about his team’s ability to assure a spot in the Tour de France. With the field capped at 22 teams, and if Qhubeka-Assos remains at the WorldTour (sources told VeloNews the team intends to retain its WorldTour spot for 2021), there are only three wild-card invitations. One of those spots is assured by Alpecin-Fenix, home of superstar Mathieu van der Poel, after it won the European racing league in 2020.
So that will pit three French teams — Arkéa-Samsic, Total Direct Energie and B&B Hotels-Vital Concept — for the two remaining spots.
Hubert expressed worries that if the Quintana affair remains unsettled by next year that it could impact the team’s ability to race the Tour de France and other top races.
“I’m confident we’ll be in the Tour,” Hubert said. “I think all the contending teams deserve to be at the start. We must each find our place. I trust the Tour, but maybe the exceptional situation linked to the current context could change the situation.”