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Anti-doping agency and French police communicating over Bahrain Victorious Tour de France raid

LUZ ARDIDEN FRANCE JULY 15 Pello Bilbao of Spain Sonny Colbrelli of Italy Dylan Teuns of Belgium Wout Poels of The Netherlands Polka Dot Mountain Jersey Matej Mohori of Slovenia Polka Dot Mountain Jersey Marco Haller of Austria Fred Wright of The United Kingdom and Team Bahrain Victorious at start during the 108th Tour de France 2021 Stage 18 a 1297km stage from Pau to Luz Ardiden 1715m LeTour TDF2021 on July 15 2021 in Luz Ardiden France Photo by Chris GraythenGetty Images
Bahrain Victorious before the start of stage 17 of the Tour de France, the morning after the police raids (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

The International Testing Agency, responsible for anti-doping in cycling and a number of other sports, have told Cyclingnews they have been "in communication" with the French police that searched the rooms and seized computers, mobile phones and training data of the Bahrain Victorious team at the Tour de France on Wednesday night.

According to the Reuters news agency, the French investigation began last year amid suspicions of doping.

Police investigations have often uncovered the biggest doping scandals in sport, while intelligence has become an important factor in the fight against doping. Anti-doping organizations often hire former police detectives and former team staff to help understand how athletes and teams dope.

"The ITA confirms that it has been in communication with the Central Office for the Fight against Environmental and Public Health Damage (OCLAESP) as part of the operations carried out by the French authorities on the sidelines of the Tour de France two days ago," the ITA told Cyclingnews.

"The UCI has been informed accordingly and the ITA will not make any further comment." 

The ITA took over anti-doping operations from the UCI's Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF) in 2021. The ITA is a not-for-profit Foundation that works for a number of sporting federations.

The Bahrain Victorious investigation is being carried out by the Office Central de Lutte contre les Atteintes à l'Environnement et la Santé Publique, responsible for public health based in Marseille, with the investigation formally opened by a public prosecutor.

A statement from the Marseille prosecutor's office said the investigation was opened on July 3 into the possible "acquisition, transportation, possession and importing of a prohibited substance or method for use by an athlete without justification by members of Team Bahrain Victorious, currently in action at the 2021 Tour de France." 

Possessing, using, and selling doping products are all criminal offenses in France. However, L'Equipe reported that, while objects and information was seized, nobody was placed under formal investigation, though Bahrain Victorious team doctor Marjan Korsic faces formal questioning at the end of the Tour de France. 

"The preliminary investigation is continuing to determine the reality or not of the offenses that justified its initiation," a statement from the Marseille prosecutor's office said.

"The existence of this investigation and the operations carried out do not in any way predict the existence of criminal offenses. Anyone suspected or prosecuted is presumed innocent until proven guilty."

On Thursday morning Cyclingnews broke the news that the Bahrain Victorious team hotel had been raided by the French police with dozens of officers on the scene.

Riders personal belongings were searched and their training data reportedly seized. According to Dylan Teuns, the police took his mobile phone to study his messages, giving him just a few minutes to note down three phone numbers.

"I was just allowed to write down three numbers from my loved ones," Teuns told Het Nieuwsblad. "When I asked the officers when I would get my cell phone back, they told me: It could take up to two months. Everything is there: personal photos, my contacts, you name it. But there was not an ounce of understanding."

"We have a visit from the police, they ask for riders' training files, they check the bus and that's it," Bahrain Victorious team boss Milan Eržen told Cyclingnews on Thursday.

"They disturb riders for one hour and at the end, they said thank you. They didn't tell us what's the reason of the visit, but we will find this out through lawyers."

Pau has historically been the scene of a number of doping raids, investigations and scandals over the years.

The Tour de France organisers tried to focus on the racing but race director Christian Prudhomme showed his anger through gritted teeth.

"We do not like cheating," he said, speaking briefly to the media at the Tour de France.

"I do not know if there was cheating but everyone must do their job, including the gendarmes of the OCLAESP, they must work to the end of it all."