French cyclist Cedric Vasseur, held by police for 48 hours while questioned on suspicion of doping, pleaded his innocence on Saturday.
“I have nothing to do with what’s going on. I have my line of conduct and I stick to it,” the 33-year-old Cofidis rider, who wore the Tour de France yellow jersey for five days in 1997, told a media conference.
“This affair is not a Cofidis problem, it’s a problem for some individuals.”
Vasseur was arrested for questioning last Tuesday alongside teammate Philippe Gaumont after police raided Cofidis headquarters and the office of one of the team doctors.
Gaumont was released on Wednesday but has been placed under police investigation. Vasseur was freed on Thursday without charge.
“I never expected to spend 48 hours in custody,” Vasseur said. “Police questioned me about my own behavior, about some members of the team and about the life of a cycling team.
“I don’t know what charges they are upholding against other people, I only know they don’t have anything against me.”
Top Cofidis riders such as British time-trial world champion David Millar and Spanish road race world champion Igor Astarloa have not been involved in the police investigation.
Francois Migraine, the chairman of the team’s sponsor, a finance company specialising in credit by phone, has promised to show no mercy if any of his riders are found guilty.
He said: “If all this is true, then I’m surprised that the riders have been so stupid (…) but if I find out I have a team full of 25 riders who are all doped, then there will be no more team.”
The affair has been branded as the biggest judicial investigation into cycling since the Festina scandal that erupted during the 1998 Tour de France.
It has also prompted the French government to beef up their fight against the use of drugs in sport. Sports minister Jean-Francois Lamour said on Friday the target for the number of random tests this year would be increased from 8,500 to 9,000.