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Sainz may finally face prison

The Festina scandal provided a stark insight into the world of doping within the professional peloton.

The Festina scandal provided a stark insight into the world of doping within the professional peloton. (Image credit: AFP)

Former pro cycling soigneur Bernard Sainz, whose activities had been revealed in the late 90's during the Festina scandal, may finally be sentenced to serve a prison term of "more than 18 months". Public prosecutors requested three years of imprisonment for the Frenchman at an appeal hearing in a Paris court on Thursday, with a minimum of at least half the term to be served.

Sainz had appealed an April 2008 court decision that had sentenced him to three years of jail, 18 months served, for inciting the use of doping products and illegal medical activity. The now 66-year-old thought this sentence "very severe", but the appeal court may uphold and enforce the judgement when it renders its verdict on January 28, 2010.

The former soigneur, who always insisted that the products he gave pro cyclists were homeopathic treatments, was depicted as being a "simple charlatan, a bad guru" by public prosecutor Anne Obez-Vosgien. "This affair is important, because he spent 30 years in pro cycling using the riders," she said, justifying the prison request.

Paul Mauriac, attorney of the French cycling federation (FFC), one of the case's civil parties, hoped that "his ability to do harm will be stopped. If you kick Mr Sainz out of the door, he comes back through the window." Sainz had been stopped by police in Belgium in 2002, while he was under judicial supervision and not allowed to travel beyond France's borders.

Mauriac also said that Sainz had been in contact with Frank Vandenbroucke shortly before the former rider died in Senegal a few weeks ago. Evidence gathered during the trial described Sainz as a "powerful doper", who had verbal compensation agreements with the riders in case of victory.

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