The Kortrijk judicial authorities have searched ten homes of cycling team members as part of raids carried out Thursday morning in Western Belgium. According to Belgian's VRT news agency, banned substances were found in some of the riders' homes and that 13 people were taken in for questioning. At least one member of team Quickstep is confirmed to be involved.
"Large amounts of banned substances were found at several locations," confirmed a spokesman for the Kortrijk judicial authorities, Tom Janssens.
Last fall, politician Jean-Marie Dedecker attempted to make doping a major political issue in the lead-up to Belgium's municipal elections by publicly alleging he knew of riders who were doping and he had passed this information onto the Belgian cycling federation and a criminal magistrate for further investigation. This Sunday, Belgium is holding its federal elections, where Jean-Marie Dedecker is participating.
Since last year, Kortrijk judicial authorities have been tapping suspects' phones and collecting information, which led to Thursday morning's raids. This afternoon Kortrijk magistrates may decide to release some of the 13 people brought in for questioning.
Quickstep Team Manager Patrick Lefevere sent out a press statement shortly after the raids were conducted in which he confirmed a staff member was involved. Lefevere reported that a Quickstep's soigneur home was searched.
"This takes place just three days ahead of the federal elections," Lefevere questioned the timing.
Bram Tankink and Addy Engels, two of the Dutch riders on team Quickstep were not visited by the Kortrijk authorities. They learned about the raids from the media. "I have been training. I don't know anything. Nobody has visited my home," said Engels to Het Laatste Nieuws. "I just now heard of it. I know absolutely nothing," added Tankink. The team's other Dutch rider, Steven de Jongh, could not be reached.
Cyclingnews will have more news on the Belgian raids in our next news edition.