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Europcar boss denies wrongdoing in doping probe

Europcar boss denies wrongdoing in doping probe

Europcar manager Jean-Rene Bernaudeau denied any wrongdoing by the cycling team, after French prosecutors opened a preliminary investigation into allegations of improper use of a controlled corticoid by his riders during last year's Tour de France.
Bernaudeau said he is stunned by the doping investigations that was reveled just two days before the start of the 2012 Tour.
"It was just too big," Bernaudeau told a news conference Thursday in Belgium city of Liege, where the Tour begins Saturday.
"I was unsettled by the story, but when I read it in the paper ... I realized there was nothing in it," he said, adding that he has not yet been contacted by the investigators.
A judicial official told The Associated Press that investigators started probing several riders on the French team after receiving a notification from France's anti-doping agency, AFLD.
French sports daily L'Equipe first reported late Wednesday on details about the investigation that began last August, a month after the 2011 Tour ended.
The official, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the case is ongoing, confirmed the probe, but stressed that no evidence has been found.
He said investigators are likely probing Pierre Rolland _ who last year won the white jersey awarded to the Tour's best young rider _ or Thomas Voeckler, who placed a career-best fourth overall. The official declined to specify which cyclist is the focus of the doping investigation.
French teams like Europcar have been considered among the cleanest in the sport _ in part because of strict anti-doping laws that were put in place following a 1998 doping case, involving the French team Festina.
Bernaudeau's team is part of the MPCC (Movement for a Credible Cycling), an umbrella group for several teams, who are working to keep cycling doping-free. To achieve that, the MPCC performs internal checks blood tests on cyclists.
"My team has always been committed to protect the health of its riders," Bernaudeau said. "This is our mantra. And this year my son (Giovanni) will be on the starting line. You have to understand that, first of all, I'm a father."
Bernaudeau is a former professional rider, who started his managerial career in the 1990s.
Europcar posted its best Tour results ever last year, with Voeckler wearing the yellow jersey for 10 stages. Rolland also claimed a prestigious stage win at the Alpe d'Huez.
Voeckler, whose preparations' for the Tour have been hampered by a knee injury, said he was unnerved by the announcement, but also said, "I had a good night of sleep."
Rolland, who aims at improving his overall ranking this year, said: "This story saddens me a bit."
The Tour's image has been badly damaged by doping scandals over the past decade. Cycling's blue ribbon event had no major doping scandals last year, but the previous year had a big one: Alberto Contador tested positive for the stimulant clenbuterol in 2010 on his way to a third victory.
He was stripped of his title in February and given a two-year ban from the sport.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency accused Lance Armstrong _ the retired former superstar of cycling _ of using performance-enhancing drugs and other banned doping methods to win the Tour a record seven times from 1999 to 2005.
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Jamey Keaten in Paris contributed to this report.
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Updated : 2021-10-27 06:51 GMT+08:00