By Cyclingnews staff
Fassa Bortolo rider Dario Frigo was taken into custody before the start of today's 11th stage of the Tour de France after performance-enhancing drugs were found in his wife's car. Customs officials and local police searched the vehicle near Chambery earlier today, with initial reports suggesting that ten vials of EPO had been discovered.
At around 8.15 this morning police called to the team's Mercure hotel in Courchevel, arresting the 31 year old Italian and taking him into custody. Frigo had been lying 52nd overall, 20 minutes and 32 seconds behind race leader Lance Armstrong.
Frigo's Fassa Bortolo management confirmed the arrest in a team statement, but were quick to distance themselves from the bust. "This is an isolated incident which has nothing to do with the team," they said.
Cyclingnews spoke to Fabian Cancellara before the 11th stage, who told us that Frigo had been taken away by police at 8:00am this morning. "There's only speculation around right now," he said. "Everything needs to be confirmed. It looks like it's a private affair; it doesn't concern the team."
Tour de France organiser Jean Marie Leblanc told Reuters that he did not know how many doping products were found. "We deeply regret this case which concerns a rider who has already had brushes with the police and the sport's authorities," he added.
"He belongs to a generation of riders who just won't learn. That generation has to leave as soon as possible to be replaced by a generation of riders who respect the rules."
Fellow race director Christian Prudhomme said that the Fassa Bortolo team boss Bruno Cenghialta had assured him it was an isolated incident. "They are at loss to explain what happened and they insist the team has nothing to do with it," he said. "Those who cheat must be excluded from the race. Those people have nothing to look for in the Tour de France."
Frigo previously had a run-in with sporting authorities in 2001. He was ejected from that year's Giro d'Italia after a surprise police raid uncovered doping substances in his hotel room. He was subsequently banned for six months.
Today's case has clear parallels with another doping scandal in 2002, when the wife of Lithuanian Raimondas Rumsas was arrested by French customs officers with drugs in her car. Rumsas finished third in the Tour that year. The couple will go on trial this November on charges relating to that bust.
However there is a slight difference, according to early reports. "This is not the same as the Rumsas case. We haven't found as many drugs."