PARIS • Cycling has been thrown into fresh turmoil after French judicial authorities opened a preliminary investigation into potential doping at French team Arkea-Samsic on Monday, a day after the Tour de France ended in Paris.
Two people had been taken into custody, Marseille prosecutor Dominique Laurens said in a statement, adding that the probe was targeting a "small part of the team" and that those in custody were part of the "close entourage of the main rider", without naming him.
Arkea-Samsic's leader on the Tour was Colombian Nairo Quintana, a two-time runner-up, and Vuelta and Giro d'Italia champion. He finished 17th overall on this year's Tour.
The team confirmed their hotel in Meribel was searched by French authorities after last Wednesday's 17th stage.
The probe targeted "the administration and prescription without medical justification of a substance or a method prohibited during a sporting event, and helping and encouraging the use of that substance or method", the statement said.
Laurens said the search had resulted in the "discovery of many health products, including drugs and especially a method that can be qualified as doping".
A source with direct knowledge of the matter said a "saline solution" and "injection material" had been found.
Injection material can only be in possession of doctors as per the 'no needle policy' in place in cycling since 2011.
Arkea-Samsic team manager Emmanuel Hubert said on Monday that the investigation did "not target the team or its staff directly".
"We obviously support our riders, but if the investigation confirms the veracity of doping practices, the team would immediately dissociate itself from such acts," he added.
Quintana's management has not responded to a Reuters request for comment.
We obviously support our riders, but if the investigation confirms the veracity of doping practices, the team would immediately dissociate itself from such acts, and will not hesitate to cut ties with them.
EMMANUEL HUBERT, Arkea-Samsic team manager, on the French doping probe into his team.
This year's Tour was won by Slovenian Tadej Pogacar, who produced one of the most stunning performances in recent history in the final time trial last Saturday to overturn a 57-second deficit to compatriot Primoz Roglic.
The 22-year-old is with Team UAE Emirates, which is managed by Mauro Gianetti and Matxin Fernandez, sports directors at Saunier Duval in 2008 when the team left the Tour in the wake of Ricardo Ricco's failed doping test.
The duo were also managing the Geox-TMC team when Spaniard Juan Jose Cobo won the Vuelta in 2011, only to be stripped of the title because of a "violation of the anti-doping rules (use of a banned substance) based on irregularities found in his Athlete Biological Passport in 2009 and 2011".
"I am too young to remember that era," said Pogacar when asked about the entourage in his team.
"I was 10 in 2008 and it's weird to be talking about this because it goes against everything I believe in."
The last notable rider to fail a doping test on the Tour was Luxembourg's Frank Schleck in 2012.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) told Reuters that it "welcomes and supports the action of all authorities involved in this operation".
It said it will take "necessary measures once it has reviewed the elements obtained by the French judicial authorities".