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Cofidis focus on Tour after doping setback

Sanquer says Cofidis must now focus on the race.

MACON, France: French cycling team Cofidis said they will look to put the latest doping controversy behind them by maintaining their race objectives at the Tour de France.

Cofidis were thrown into the doping spotlight Tuesday after French rider Remy Di Gregorio was arrested following a police raid on their team hotel.

Di Gregorio had been under telephone surveillance by police since last year – when he raced with Kazakh team Astana – and was held for questioning overnight following allegations that he and two other men were involved in a doping network.

Cofidis immediately suspended the 26-year-old cyclist and pledged to sack him if the allegations were confirmed.

At the start of the 10th stage in Macon Wednesday, team manager Yvon Sanquer, who has called the incident an “isolated case,” said they must now focus on the race.

“It’s now time to turn the page,” said Sanquer, who joined the French team only days before the start following the sacking of former team manager Eric Boyer.

“We want to focus all our energy on competing in the best possible way, and to continue to aim for our objectives.”

Cofidis’ main aim is to get their Estonian rider Rein Taaramae into the white jersey for the race’s best-placed rider aged 25 and under, and to take it all the way to Paris.

It is not the first time one or several riders from Cofidis have been embroiled in a doping affair.

Several riders including Briton David Millar and Frenchman Phillipe Gaumont were implicated in a damaging doping affair in 2004, leading to radical changes at management level.

Three years later, under pressure from organizers, the team voluntarily left the 2007 Tour when Italian Cristian Moreni tested positive for the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin).

Since then Cofidis and many other teams have adopted strict internal anti-doping measures. All teams now automatically suspend riders upon suspicion of doping and sack them if those suspicions are confirmed.

Sanquer said he had no news on Di Gregorio, but added that the remaining riders in his team had taken the setback relatively well.

“After initially suffering with what’s happened, which is only natural, they’re starting to put it behind them,” he added. “We’ve done everything we can to play down the incident. What we now need to do is concentrate on the race.”

Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme said Tuesday he saw a positive message coming from the case.

“The message is the following: Those who cheat will be uncovered at some point whether it is early or later.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 12, 2012, on page 15.

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