By VeloNews Interactive wire services, Copyright AFP2002
Willy Voet, the man who achieved notoriety as the Festina soigneur found with a carload of drugs at the start of the 1998 Tour de France, claims that cycling is no cleaner today than it was four years ago, despite the fact that not a single rider in this summer’s Tour tested positive.
Voet, in an interview in Sunday’s edition of the Swiss weekly Dimanche.ch, said that little has changed since the scandal that nearly stopped the 1998 Tour de France in its tracks,
“I’ve always proclaimed loud and clear that nothing has changed in cycling,” Voet told the paper. “No one takes the risk now of carrying whatever they want in their official cars. But at the heart of it everything’s the same. They (the cyclists) continue to take us for idiots.”
Voet’s controversial comments come in the wake of the arrest and detention of Edita Rumsas, wife of Tour de France third-place finisher Raimondas Rumsas, who was caught with performance-enhancing drugs including EPO in her car last weekend.
Despite the fact that no one tested positive for drugs at this year’s Tour, Voet remains convinced that drug use continues to be pervasive in the top ranks of the sport.
“The Rumsas case shows the stupidity of these controls,” he said. “It doesn’t stop Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc or competition director Daniel Baal praising the cleanliness of the peloton. It’s grotesque.”
Voet was picked up by police on July 8, 1998 in circumstances similar to the arrest of Rumsas’ wife with his official Festina car crammed full of drugs. The ensuing scandal resulted in the arrests of several riders, the ejection of many more and a round of public soul-searching in the sport that culminated in a largely unproductive world conference on doping in sport the following year in Switzerland.
Voet’s provocative claims about the drug culture in cycling could land him in the courts, as he faces being sued by 1997 Tour winner Jan Ullrich over remarks that all winners of cycling’s premier event in recent years had taken drugs.
Voet, who has written a book spelling out his views titled “Breaking The Chain,” received a one-year suspended prison sentence from a French court for his part in the Festina affair.