Political drive behind Belgian raids?

Quickstep training

Quickstep training (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Following erroneous reports that the Quickstep team was involved in police raids that netted banned substances in western Belgium today, the Quickstep organisation released a statement clarifying the involvement of one member of the staff. According to the statement, none of the cyclists on the team had their homes searched.

One staff member's home was searched, but no "doping or illicit products" were discovered in the residence. The police temporarily took possession of the soigneur's cell phone and computer, but after questioning, returned the phone. "Insofar as we know, there is no investigation into our team, and there is no reason for an investigation. Team Quickstep-Innergetic finds it regrettable that imprecise information which was disseminated today by authorities, was seized unnecessarily to compromise the reputation of our professional team."

The statement echoed the sentiments of team director Patrick Lefevere, who noted that the timing of the searches closely coincides with federal elections in the country. "The complaint which is at the base of these searches dates from the autumn 2006," the statement read, referring to phone taps and other information gathering that was initiated by Kortrijk authorities last year. "The timing of the today's searches, three days before the federal elections, causes serious questions."

Jean-Marie Dedecker, a politician who is outspoken on the topic of doping, claimed to have knowledge of riders, soigneurs and dealers who were involved in doping in Belgian cycling, and his information provided some of the basis of information that led to the raids on Thursday. It isn't the first time that Lefevere has criticised the politician. Dedecker, who was tossed out of his own political party last fall, is also being sued by Lefevere for his involvement in the publishing of a story that alleged the Quickstep directeur was involved in doping.

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