Jeannie Longo's husband faces prison for EPO purchases

Patrice Ciprelli and Jeannie Longo in Grenoble

Patrice Ciprelli and Jeannie Longo in Grenoble (Image credit: AFP Photo)

Patrice Ciprelli, the husband and coach of French cycling legend and multiple world champion Jeannie Longo, faces imprisonment after a court in Grenoble concluded that he had made several online purchases of EPO and had illegally imported the banned performance-enhancing product into France.

According to the two judges who conducted the investigation into Ciprelli's purchase of EPO, "The inquiry revealed that Mr Ciprelli had taken numerous precautions when importing these products and then tried to conceal the fact, and he still continues to deny this using excuses that aren't credible and that are in certain aspects complete fantasy in the face of overwhelming evidence."

In 2012, however, Ciprelli reportedly confessed to purchasing EPO in 2010 and 2011 on L'ÉquipeTV, but contended the drug "was for his own, personal use". He was taken into custody, at that time, after officials from OCLAESP (the French central office for public health and the prevention of environmental damage) searched the couple's residence in Grenoble.

Four years on, the 61-year-old coach now faces a return to court to be sentenced on a charge of "having been involved in the fraudulent importation of prohibited goods, specifically doping products (EPO)."

The investigation, which began in September 2011, revealed that Ciprelli had purchased EPO on eight occasions between October 2007 and June 2011, spending a total of US$9,363. Payment was made with either Ciprelli's bank card or his wife's. The products were then delivered to Ciprelli's mother home or to that of a friend.

The investigating judges also looked into allegations of doping, and concluded: "The suspicions of doping by persons being trained by Mr Ciprelli, and notably his wife Jeannie Longo, have not been confirmed by the inquiry nor by assessment of the medical records of the latter mentioned."

Their report did state, however, that it had "suspicions of doping" with regard to 57-year-old Longo due to "exceptional sporting performances and longevity". But the investigating judges added that they had been "unable to provide irrefutable proof of this doping."

Longo won 59 French titles and 13 world titles during her long career. The last of them was the French time trial title in 2011.

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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).