Tour de France overshadowed by doping claims as police act

As the 2022 Tour de France began in Copenhagen, police across Europe carried out a series of raids in an effort to crack down on doping in cycling.

The world’s premier road race series has been dogged by accusations that participants have been using illegal substances to enhance their performance once Lance Armstrong admitted that many of his major cycling victories had been achieved while being part of a widespread doping regime. The race is worth hundreds of millions to sponsors and the millions invested by the teams themselves. Therefore any threat of further doping revelations would be a major impact on the reputation of the event, sport and its commercial power.

This weekend law enforcement and judicial authorities in France, Belgium, Spain, Croatia, Italy, Poland and Slovenia carried out a coordinated action against the use of prohibited substances in cycling races. Based on a request from the French authorities, the Danish Police also conducted searches at one of the Tour de France hotels in Copenhagen. The international activity was coordinated by Europol and Eurojust.

The investigation was led by the French OCLAESP under the supervision of the French Public Prosecutor’s Office in Marseille to look into possible doping allegations of a cycling team participating in the Tour de France.

“Between 27 and 30 June, a total of 14 locations were searched in 6 countries,” Europol revealed. “Three people were interrogated. The investigation is ongoing and the evidence seized is being forensically examined. “

The properties of several riders and their staff were searched in Belgium, Spain, Croatia, Italy, Poland and Slovenia.

Europol said it acted quickly when it became aware of the allegations.

“An urgent coordination meeting was hosted by Eurojust on 16 June to facilitate judicial cooperation, including the execution of seven European Investigation Orders in the countries involved, and the preparation of the joint action,” it said in a statement. “Europol deployed a dozen officers across the participating countries to facilitate the extensive exchange of information and provide forensic support for the seized electronic devices.”

“The illegal production and distribution of doping substances brings significant illicit profit to organised crime groups,” it added. “They often use these profits to fuel other criminal activities, such as producing and trafficking illegal and substandard medicines and synthetic drugs.

“Doping substances not only corrupt fair competitions they also endanger the health of athletes as criminals often produce illegal doping substances in underground labs with no hygiene requirements while using dangerous and substandard raw materials. These illicit doping substances poison players in all sports: from track athletes, professional cyclists, skiers and weightlifters to amateur bodybuilders.”

The organisation added several investigations supported by Europol have uncovered the use of doping substances to influence the outcome of professional sports.

The Europol-coordinated SHIELD II operation ran last year between April and December 2021 in 26 countries led to 544 arrests and €63 million of fake pharmaceutical and illegal doping substances seized.