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Gaumont tips the bucket

French ex-pro Philippe Gaumont has published a book, Prisonnier du dopage, recalling his rather sordid existence as a professional cyclist in the Cofidis team. In it, he goes into detail describing his own doping and recreational drug taking practices, and those of several of the other members of the team. Gaumont ended his career in 2004 after he was arrested by police in relation to the Cofidis affair, which implicated a number of riders and soigneurs in doping practices.

Few of Gaumont's former team colleagues remain untouched by the revelations in the book, and he describes how some of the riders sniffed a mixture of sleeping powder and ephedrine before climbing between rooms on the eighth floor of their hotel. Another rider, now retired, told Gaumont of his experiences with Oxyglobin, an artificial blood booster for use in animals. The rider said that he took it before Paris-Roubaix and it did nothing more than give him a stomach ache.

"I devoured everything that he [a doctor] gave me without asking questions," Gaumont related. "I swallowed anything that might make me go faster. At one stage, after 10 years, I couldn't imagine riding a bike without it." Gaumont described how he took Pot Belge in the winter of 1994-1995, then went onto taking amphetamines to do post-Tour criteriums. "They [the foreign riders in Cofidis in 1997] only used illegal products to improve their performances. We French not only did dope, but what's more, we regularly got high on amphetamines and Pot Belge." Gaumont added that before the 1998 Tour de France, he and several of the team's riders [including foreigners] were prepared by an Italian doctor, and packages containing EPO and growth hormones, along with instructions of how to use them, was sent to them.

Gaumont touched on other illegal practices within the peloton, explaining how his team got paid for working with Telekom during the ill-fated 2003 Paris-Nice, where Cofidis rider Andrei Kivilev crashed and died. "Once, I was ashamed," wrote Gaumont. "It was in Paris-Nice, in 2003. Our teammate, Kazakh Andrei Kivilev had died two days previously as a result of a crash...The race finished on Mont Faron...and Alexandre Vinokourov, Kivilev's best friend, was well placed to take the lead in the general classification. An break had gone and in the earpiece, I asked our sports director: What do we do? Do we help Telekom ride?...With his car, he drew up beside Telekom's and then told us in the microphone: 'It's OK, do it. I negotiated €3000 day (for the whole team) until Sunday. We did it, we rode for three days, without asking questions. Vino won Paris-Nice and we pocketed money. In the newspapers, they described the beauty of our gesture..."

Prisonnier du dopage is published by Grasset and is available in French.

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