Medicines and electronics have been seized in police raids on the Bahrain Victorious team this week, French authorities confirmed on Thursday evening.
Riders and staff members had their homes searched in an international anti-doping operation on Monday ahead of their travel to the Tour de France, and on Thursday Danish police swooped on the team's hotel in Copenhagen a day before the start of the Tour.
The Danish authorities would not comment on the matter at the time, pointing out that the investigation was being led by French police, but the public prosecutor's office in Marseille has now given a statement to French news agency AFP.
It confirms that items have been seized and detailed that three riders' homes were searched. Bahrain Victorious' Damiano Caruso told Cyclingnews on Thursday that he was one of the riders, but the others have not been identified.
"Between June 27 and 30, 2022, a collective international judicial and police operation was carried out across Italy, Spain, Belgium, Poland, Slovenia, Croatia, and Denmark," read the statement.
"The operation, coordinated by Eurojust with the help of Europol, allowed the judicial and police authorities of those countries to carry out several searches at the homes of the manager, three riders, the osteopath, and a doctor of the professional cycling team Bahrain Victorious, as well as at the headquarters of WINNING SRL, the team's holding company.
"A search of hotel rooms occupied by members of the cycling team in Copenhagen was also carried out today."
The statement went on to explain that items, including medicines, had been seized as part of the operation.
In a statement relating to the hotel raid, Bahrain Victorious had stated that "no items were seized." The police statement did not specify which searches resulted in seizures.
"Electronic material (phones, computers, hard drives) and medicines - of which the nature and origin remain undetermined, or which require a prescription - have been seized," read the statement.
"The items seized will be subject to analysis and further investigation."
The operation follows on from an investigation that broke cover at last year's Tour de France, where Bahrain Victorious' hotel in Pau was raided in the middle of the night. It relates to the potential “acquisition, transportation, possession and importing of a prohibited substance or method for use by an athlete without justification by members of Team Bahrain Victorious" according to last year's police statement.
Last year, testing of riders' hair samples reportedly revealed traces of the powerful muscle relaxant Tizanidine, which is not prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency but could indicate off-label use of the medicine. No other findings have been confirmed.
Bahrain Victorious insist there has been no wrongdoing, and that they have complied with the authorities. However, they have complained of a lack of communication from French police and indicated in the wake of Monday's raids that the investigation was "aimed at intentionally damaging the team's reputation".
Bahrain Victorious' riders at the Tour de France have been prevented from speaking to the media about the matter. The team insist they are focused on competition but their pre-race press conferences on Thursday consisted of a string of raid-related questions that went unanswered.
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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.