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Küng: I hope Bahrain Victorious are prosecuted or the police apologise

Stefan Kung
(Image credit: Getty)

There were a lot of bemused faces at the Groupama-FDJ camp outside their hotel on the western outskirts of Copenhagen on Thursday morning. As the riders grabbed their bikes and rolled out for a training session a day before the start of the Tour de France, they had to pick their way through a gaggle of camera crews.

The reporters weren't here to speak to Thibaut Pinot, David Gaudu or Stefan Küng, but to capture the mood of Bahrain Victorious, who are lodging in the same hotel.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, the Bahrain Victorious hotel rooms and vehicles were searched by Danish police in an anti-doping operation led by the French authorities that has now seen action in several European countries and spanned more than a year.

"This is the second time I've woken up to police in our hotel, going after Bahrain," Marc Madiot told Cyclingnews in the car park.

The longstanding Groupama-FDJ manager was there in Pau at last year's Tour, where this police operation first broke cover. The two teams were drawn in the same hotel back then as well, when rooms were searched and belongings seized.

The Thursday morning raid was, apparently, a slightly quieter affair, a follow-up to the homes of the Tour squad's riders being searched in advance of their travel to Denmark for the Grand Départ.

"I slept through it," Küng told Cyclingnews. "The first I heard of it was when I was eating breakfast."

The Groupama-FDJ riders rolled off anonymously as the world watched Bahrain Victorious. It was, as Küng pointed out, a mere coincidence that they were sharing a hotel, but he also acknowledged the situation does implicate them indirectly, as it does the entire peloton.

"It gives an image that we are all cheaters, and that's not very nice," Küng said.

"For us, it doesn't change anything. We focus on our thing. But all the cameras pointing at them, it's not a nice feeling, for sure."

Küng, the European time trial champion, was about to prepare for one of the biggest days of his season, as a favourite for the Tour's opening TT around Copenhagen on Friday. He'll have applied the finishing touches to a fault, but there will have been a sour note in the back of his mind.

The same goes for the Tour de France as a whole, and especially the Danish Grand Départ. Thousands of fans packed and deafened the Tivoli gardens at the teams presentation on Wednesday evening, but Thursday's events threaten to overshadow the occasion.

Madiot did not wish to comment on the news, saying he didn't know enough about it, but Küng gave his take on what is a complex, high-stakes situation.

"I just hope that if there is something, for sure that they are prosecuted. But I also hope that if there is nothing, that there is a public apology," the Swiss rider said.

"It's good that there are prosecutions because I'm the first one to support any measure that helps to give our sport credibility and make sure that we, as clean riders, are not penalised. But in the same way, I always ask for fair play, from everyone, from the authorities.

"If they make their prosecutions, good. If they don't find anything, there should also be a statement about that."

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Patrick Fletcher
Patrick Fletcher

Deputy Editor - Europe. Patrick is an NCTJ-trained journalist who has seven years’ experience covering professional cycling. He has a modern languages degree from Durham University and has been able to put it to some use in what is a multi-lingual sport, with a particular focus on French and Spanish-speaking riders. After joining Cyclingnews as a staff writer on the back of work experience, Patrick became Features Editor in 2018 and oversaw significant growth in the site’s long-form and in-depth output. Since 2021 he has been Deputy Editor - Europe, taking more responsibility for the site’s content as a whole, while still writing and - despite a pandemic-induced hiatus - travelling to races around the world. Away from cycling, Patrick spends most of his time playing or watching other forms of sport - football, tennis, trail running, darts, to name a few, but he draws the line at rugby.