By Justin Davis-Copyright AFP2004
Cofidis’s Cedric Vasseur, questioned by police last week in the latestdoping affair to hit French cycling, claims drug cheating is no longersystematic.However, former Festina manager Bruno Roussel says it’s time for theauthorities to wake up to reality.Cycling was discredited in the 1998 Tour de France when the Festinateam was expelled after police uncovered stocks of prohibited substances.The scandal effectively prompted the creation of the World Anti DopingAgency (WADA).Vasseur was taken into custody with team-mate Phillipe Gaumont – whowill be charged after he admitted using the banned blood booster EPO -before being released 48 hours later.”They questioned me about myself and about other members of the team,about how a team works and relationships within the team. I dont know exactlywhat evidence the investigators have on others but I know that there’snothing against me,” said Vasseur.The 33-year-old Frenchman, who wore the Tour’s yellow jersey for almosta week in 1997 and was once a member of U.S. Postal, added: “This isn’ta Cofidis affair, it’s a matter that concerns a handful of individuals.”Gaumont won a bronze medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics but five yearslater was suspended for doping. “We’ve gone from a vertical type of doping which is organised and structured(within a team) to a horizontal system which spreads across several teamsat the same time,” Roussel said in an interview with the newspaper OuestFrance.”I would like to see riders being banned for two years for a first offence,and banned for life for a second offence,” he said. “The events of 1998have changed the way riders operate. Now there are little networks betweengroups of friends, and they’re playing around with stuff they don’t evenknow.”Vasseur added that he was tired of cycling continually sweeping theproblem under the carpet.”The sports world has for decades had this way of systematically playingdown things as soon as a doping scandal emerges,” he said. “In fact, that’sjust another way of cheating people. Why do they keep telling us that dopingis on the decrease while, whenever the police start poking their nose intoit they manage to find a ton of substances?” Last week it was revealed that some riders in last year’s centenaryTour de France resorted to blood doping, forcing the sport’s governingbody to announce that an Australian-pioneered test to detect blood transfusionswill be used for the first time this season.Cofidis’ Polish physio Bogdan Madejak and former team-members MarekRutkiewicz and Robert Sassone are all implicated in the latest scandal.Their arrests came after former Cofidis team member Robert Sassone, whowon a world track title in 2001, was placed under judicial investigationafter a stash of drugs were found in his home during a police search.Madejak is suspected of being part of a drug trafficking ring and hasnow been suspended by the team, who boast a string of top riders includingworld champions David Millar (time trial) and Igor Astarloa (road).Sassone, who turned professional in 2000, won a gold at the world trackchampionships the following year. He was a member of the Cofidis team untillast season.