Europol confirms Bahrain Victorious Tour de France raids centred on 'use of prohibited substances'

(Image credit: Europol)

Europol has confirmed that the ongoing investigation into the Bahrain Victorious team is focused on “the use of prohibited substances in cycling races,” while Eurojust has revealed that “412 capsules with undetermined brown content and 67 capsules with undetermined white content” were found during a search earlier this week in Slovenia. 

The Bahrain Victorious hotel in Copenhagen was raided by Danish law enforcement on the eve of the Tour de France, while police searches were carried out on the homes of riders and staff in Belgium, Spain, Croatia, Italy, Poland and Slovenia earlier this week.

In a statement on Friday, Europol confirmed that electronic devices had been seized during the raids and it released photographs showing that medications had also been seized.

The Europol statement follows earlier confirmation from the public prosecutor's office in Marseille that the homes of “the manager, three riders, the osteopath, and a doctor” from Bahrain Victorious had been searched.

Bahrain Victorious have been under investigation by the Marseille public prosecutor’s office since last July, when their hotel in Pau was raided during the 2021 Tour.

Europol outlined that an “urgent coordination meeting,” hosted by Eurojust, the EU agency for judicial cooperation in criminal matters between member states, took place on June 16 ahead of the most recent raids. 

The meeting was held “to facilitate judicial cooperation, including the execution of seven European Investigation Orders in the countries involved, and the preparation of the joint action.”

Raids on Bahrain Victorious riders and staff were subsequently carried out in seven countries over the past week.

“Law enforcement and judicial authorities in France, Belgium, Spain, Croatia, Italy, Poland and Slovenia have carried out a coordinated action against the use of prohibited substances in cycling races,” read the statement.

“Based on a request from the French authorities, the Danish Police have also carried out 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. 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.”

In a later statement, Eurojust listed the items that were seized during the raids this week. “In Italy, several locations were searched and a range of electronic equipment (including laptops, smartphones, hard disks and pen drives), pharmaceutical substances and supplements were seized,” read the statement.

“In Belgium, a computer, a mobile phone and capsules with undetermined content were seized in one house search.

“In Poland, one house search was carried out. A series of electronic devices and pharmaceutical substances were seized.

“In Slovenia, 412 capsules with undetermined brown content and 67 capsules with undetermined white content were found, and one mobile phone was seized in a house search.

“In Spain, houses and premises were searched and electronic devices were seized.”

A dozen Europol officers have been deployed in the investigation, while authorities in France (from the Public Health and Environment Division in Marseille and OCLAESP), Belgium (Federal Prosecutor's Office and the Federal Judicial Police of Brussels), Denmark (Copenhagen Police), Spain (Investigative Court number 8 in Alicante, the Prosecutor's Office in Alicante and the Policía Nacional in Alicante), Croatia (County State Attorney’s Office in Rijeka), Italy (the NAS units of Brescia, Roma and Ragusa), Poland (the Circuit Prosecutor’s Office and City Police in Łódź) and Slovenia (District Court and Slovenian Police) have also participated in the inquiry.

In a statement earlier this week, Bahrain Victorious claimed that the raids had been “aimed at intentionally damaging the team’s reputation.” Damiano Caruso confirmed to Cyclingnews that his home had been searched by police and there were reports in the Belgian media that Dylan Teuns' residence was also searched. But on Thursday, the team otherwise refused to engage with media questions about the inquiry, and their pre-race press conference was abruptly cut short.

Bahrain Victorious had issued a statement earlier on Thursday morning acknowledging that the dawn raid in Copenhagen had taken place.

“The officers searched all team vehicles, staff and riders’ rooms. The team fully cooperated with all the officers’ requests, and the search was completed within two hours. No items were seized from the team,” read the statement. “Following the police search, the team is now looking forward to focusing on the world’s biggest and best cycling race, Tour de France.”

Both the UCI and Tour organiser ASO have yet to make any statement on the investigation into Bahrain Victorious.

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Barry Ryan
Head of Features

Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation, published by Gill Books.