Cyclist appears in court over doping offense

Cofidis rider Remy Di Gregorio of France leaves the courthouse of Marseille July 12, 2012. Prosecutors called for French Tour de France rider Remy Di Gregorio to be charged with "possession of banned substances or illegal devices". (REUTERS/Philippe Laurenson)

MARSEILLE, France: Cyclist Remy Di Gregorio appeared in court Thursday and was charged with doping-related offenses, his lawyer said.

The 26-year-old Tour de France rider is in the dock for possession of unauthorized medical equipment.

Emerging from the hearing Domnique Mattei, Di Gregorio’s lawyer confirmed: “He was charged with being in possession of supposed doping products.”

A Marseille-based doctor who was also arrested has since admitted mixing blood from Di Gregorio with ozone and reinjecting it in a bid to improve the cyclist’s performance.

The doctor, 75, is facing charges of “using banned substances or procedures on an athlete” and “the illegal practice of medicine” and remains in custody.

The equipment found in Di Gregorio’s possession was a glucose injection kit, which requires prior medical justification during competition, Marseille magistrate Jacques Dallest said.

If found guilty the cyclist risks a one year prison sentence and 3,750 euro fine, Dallest told a press conference.

Di Gregorio, who has been suspended by his Cofidis team following his arrest Tuesday and has dropped out of the Tour de France, admits receiving injections, but denies any charges of doping.

Di Gregorio told the waiting media after the hearing: “I can assure you that I have never doped, except if someone tricked me. The people who support me should know that I can look myself in the mirror, justice will do the rest.”

He added: “Unfortunately the Tour is over, but the hardest thing is over and I still have the future in front of me.”

Mattei challenged the decision to charge the cyclist.

He said: “What is the line between a high-level physical preparation advised by experts and doping?

“What is regrettable is that Mr Di Gregorio has been suspended from the Tour de France while there is no certainty that he has taken doping products,” he added.

Di Gregorio was arrested following a police raid at his team’s hotel in Bourg-en-Bresse outside Macon in eastern France Tuesday as part of an investigation into the organized trafficking of doping substances.

He was taken to Marseille for further questioning along with two other men, who were suspected of “having dealings” with Di Gregorio.

One of the two other men was released Wednesday. He had been in possession of vitamins, nutritional supplements, blood transfusion kits and other products which are still being analyzed.

“This individual was a friend who had come from Marseille to drop off the products, bought by the rider over the internet,” Dallest said.

Cofidis, who had suffered doping scandals because of unscrupulous riders in the past, pledged to sack Di Gregorio if charges of doping or attempted doping are confirmed.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 13, 2012, on page 15.




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