Domo dumps troubled rider
By VeloNews Interactive wire services, Copyright AFP2002
Domo Farm Frites’s troubled cyclist Frank Vandenbroucke and his personal coach have been charged with possession of drugs in Belgium, after police discovered a substantial stash of doping products during a Wednesday night search of his home.
The Domo-Farm Frites team quickly fired Vandenbroucke after news of the search became public.
Following the arrest of his French trainer, the infamous Bernard Sainz, Belgian police conducted a search of Vandenbroucke’s home and found a variety of banned performance-enhancing and other substances, a prosecutor’s office spokesman in Termonde, Belgium, said Thursday.
According to the source, police found the red-blood-cell-boosting drug erythropoietin (EPO), morphine and Clenbuterol in their search of the Domo-Farm Frites rider’s home.
The discovery marks yet another chapter in the strange saga of the talented, but troubled, cyclist, once touted as the next great Belgian hope.
Vandenbroucke fell on hard times in the past two seasons, and was out of action for most of last year following a nervous breakdown.
The 27-year-old Vandenbroucke was hauled in for questioning by police late Wednesday night after a large quantity of amphetamines and syringes were found in the trunk of the car belonging to Sainz, a French horse breeder and physiotherapist, who was involved in a drug scandal two years ago.
Sainz, Vandenbroucke’s personal trainer, was being held while a decision was made on whether to arrest the cyclist as well, said the source.
Police said Sainz was stopped for speeding on a motorway in northern Belgium, Wednesday night. While searching the vehicle police discovered syringes and drugs, including amphetamines. Sainz was taken into custody, despite repeatedly claiming that the substances were merely “homeopathic products,” a defense he used unsuccessfully two years ago.
Sainz is believed to have spent Tuesday night at Vandenbroucke’s home.
According to prosecutor, Christian Du Four, Vandenbroucke was released on Thursday afternoon, but police are continuing to hold Sainz.
Both men face up to five years in prison if convicted. “Franck Vandenbroucke remained evasive during his interview. He didn’t say why he had these products. He hasn’t said that he used them, but he hasn’t denied it either,” Du Four told the French news agency AFP.
He added that Sainz for his part was being “very evasive”, but had told police that he’d had contact with cyclists who he advised “from time to time”.
This is the second time Vandenbroucke has been linked to both Sainz and illegal drugs.
Vandenbroucke’s Domo Farm Frites team reacted quickly, sacking him just three months after signing up the rider regarded as the enfant terrible of the Belgium cycling world.
A drained-looking team director Patrick Lefevere said: “We had no choice. The rule of the team is that any rider found with drugs has to go. It’s a tough blow for cycling. Spnsors were already reticent, this isn’t going to help.”
In 1999 he was suspended but later reinstated by the Cofidis team after being investigated by French authorities over his association with Sainz for an alleged doping affair. Sainz was charged with breaking the law relating to toxic substances and doping products and imprisoned for two months last May. A final judgment on his case is still pending.
Vandenbroucke denied at the time he was a cheat, but said he may have been naive in taking homeopathic products for which he paid Sainz 57,000 francs ($9500).
Cofidis reinstated Vandenbroucke, who had been leading the World Cup standings at the time, when he was cleared by a judicial inquiry. In a related development, police raided the home of another Belgian rider, Nico Mattan, early Thursday morning, according to Mattan’s Cofidis team manager Alain Bondue. The 30-year-old Mattan won the Paris-Nice prologue last year. No information regarding the results of that search have been released.
Aside from EPO and morphine the other substance found in Vandenbroucke’s home on Wednesday was Clenbuterol, a drug intended to treat asthma. Athletes often take Clenbuterol for its anabolic effects. Those effects are not as pronounced as the anabolic steroids, but one advantage is that traces of Clenbuterol are purged from the body much more quickly than some of the anabolic steroids, which may be detectable in blood or urine for several weeks after administration.
Vandenbroucke, who won the Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic in 1999 and two stages in the Tour of Spain the same year, admitted last year when he signed with Domo that, after a couple of lean years, the 2002 season could well be his last chance to revive his career.
Barring a miracle, that opportunity probably just disappeared.
News Editor Charles Pelkey contributed to this report
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