French Senate names 1998 Tour de France dopers; O'Grady and Durand confess

Reaction to report also from UCI and presidential hopeful Brian Cookson

by Simon_MacMichael   July 24, 2013  

Syringe

A report by the French Senate published today has laid bare the extent of doping in the 1998 Tour de France, with race winner Marco Pantani among those revealed to have tested positive for EPO when samples were analysed six years later.

It has also resulted in two riders, Stuart O’Grady and Jacky Durand, stepping forward to confess to doping, as well as provoking differing reactions from cycling’s world governing body, the UCI, and the man who is aiming to become its president, Brian Cookson.

The Senate’s report listed 18 riders whose samples from the 1998 race were found to have tested positive.

Those are Manuel Beltran, Jeroen Blijlevens, Mario Cipollini, Laurent Desbiens, Jacky Durand, Bo Hamburger, Jens Heppner, Laurent Jalabert, Kevin Livingston, Eddy Mazzoleni, Nicola Minali, Abraham Olano, Marco Pantani, Fabio Sacchi, Marcos Serrano, Andrea Tafi, Jan Ullrich and Erik Zabel.

It also listed 12 riders whose retested samples were described as “suspicious”: Stephane Barthe, Ermanno Brignoli, Giuseppe Calcaterra, Pascal Chanteur, Bobby Julich, Eddy Mazzoleni, Roland Meier, Axel Merckx, Frederic Moncassin, Stuart O'Grady, Alain Turicchia,  and Stefano Zanini.

The report (available here in French) follows an inquiry held by a committee of the French parliament’s upper house earlier this year at the Palais du Luxembourg in Paris.

Witnesses who provided testimony included UCI president Pat McQuaid and former ONCE and CSC rider, and more recently French national coach, Laurent Jalabert - the latter is one of those named today as having tested positive.

It seems unlikely any action will be taken against the riders named. The Senate says that seeking to impose sanctions is beyond its remit. Moreover, since the samples were taken 15 years ago, they fall well beyond the World Anti-Doping Code’s eight-year statute of limitations.

While the inquiry was aimed at addressing doping across a range of sports, attention has focused on cycling and, in particular, the 1998 edition of the Tour de France which began in Dublin.

That’s chiefly because the Senate’s report for the first time details the results of retests in 2004 for the red blood cell boosting agent EPO of samples taken from riders during the 1998 Tour, and names the riders who tested positive.

That year’s edition of the race achieved notoriety as the ‘Festina Tour’ after a soigneur from that team, Willy Voet, was arrested while travelling into France with a large quantity of doping products in his car.

Only 96 of the 189 riders who began the race finished it, with the Festina team kicked off the race and several others, including ONCE, pulling out in protest at their treatment following a series of police raids.

Pantani, who died in 2004 of a cocaine overdose, won the race, and is the last rider to have won the Tour and the Giro d’Italia in the same season.

While he never tested positive during his career – he was briefly suspended for having a haematocrit level above the permitted threshold of 50 per cent – will come as little surprise, nor will the identity of most of those named as having provided positive or suspicious tests when their samples were retested.

Earlier this month, Pantani's family warned that they would take legal action if it were proposed to take his 1998 Tour win away from him in light of the Senate's report.

In a statement released in reaction to today's report, the UCI, criticised for its handling of the case of Lance Armstrong, who would win the seven editions of the Tour de France after 1998, underlined that it believed cycling is a cleaner sport now and highlighted efforts it has made to combat doping, including the introduction of the biological passport.

It stated: “In view of the revelations that were made over the past year it has become clear that in the late 1990s and early 2000s, many riders made bad choices during a very bad period for cycling.”

Acknowledging that no test existed for EPO in 1998, the UCI added: “The retroactive testing of the 1998 Tour riders’ samples was carried out by the French laboratory as scientific research and not according to technical standards for anti-doping analyses.

“In addition, the principles of anonymity and prior consent from the riders for scientific analyses were not respected. The results therefore could not be accepted as valid proof in an anti-doping context – and the UCI could not open retrospective disciplinary proceedings.

“As it was not possible to prove that the riders concerned had doped and no B-analysis was available as a defense, the UCI considered it was not appropriate to disclose their names.”

British Cycling president Cookson, who has challenged UCI president Pat McQuaid in September’s elections to lead the governing body for the next four years, said the latest revelations demonstrated that the latest revelations demonstrated the urgent need for reform of the anti-doping process.

“Today's news shows just how out of control professional road cycling was allowed to get in the late 1990s,” he said.

“The fact that it appears so many riders tested positive in the 1998 and 1999 Tour de France for EPO is a terrible indictment of the people responsible, and those with the most responsibility for the culture within the sport are the UCI.

“What I believe is absolutely essential on our road back to credibility is that we get to the bottom of how this happened. Most importantly we need to know whether the UCI was complicit, colluded with riders or was itself corrupt.

“That is why I will implement a fully independent investigation into doping in cycling so we can deal once and for all with the past, with amnesties or reductions in sanctions to encourage all those involved to come forward. The brief of the investigation will centre on the uncovering of any UCI corruption and collusion, and understanding what factors led to the culture of doping.”

He concluded: “We owe it to those who chose to ride dope-free and to the fans to understand the mistakes of the past and make sure they are not repeated.”

O’Grady, aged 39, announced his retirement on Monday after completing his 16th Tour de France, a move that surprised many given that the Orica GreenEdge rider had recently revealed he aimed to continue riding until after next year’s race.

He spent three days in the race leader’s yellow jersey in 1998, when he was with the GAN team. Earlier today, however, he admitted he had used EPO on the race, insisting he had sourced it himself.

Durand, winner of three career Tour de France stages, one of them in 1998, as well as Paris-Tours and the Tour of Flanders, is now a pundit for Eurosport France.

The 46-year-old went public on his doping prior to the Senate publishing its findings today, although some details of the report had already been leaked to daily newspaper Le Monde.

He said that a distinction should be drawn between the era he was riding in and the sport as it currently is, maintaining that it is cleaner nowadays.

“I don’t think anybody is fooled by the revelations that most of the peloton doped in 1998,” he said in a statement reported by Eurosport UK.

“The press, supporters, spectators and racers know the difference between current and traditional practices regarding EPO.

“But of course, I can understand why the general public may be confused between what happened in 1998 and what is happening now.

“The next generation must not pay the price for our crap. Today I am not thinking of myself, but of them. My career is in the past.

“Now I'm thinking of the kid that could be a breakout star during the Tour who has to listen to people say: 'You're drugged up like all the others.'

“I think of somebody like Thibaut Pinot, who finished 10th in the Tour at age 22, or a Romain Bardet who finished 15th at the same age.

“I don't want these cyclists to be discredited just because everyone from my generation was full of bullshit.

“Our sport is much cleaner now, I want people to understand that,” he added.

23 user comments

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Well looking at the GC from 98 they might aswell just say the whole race was at it.

I am surprised that O'Grady has admitted to it so quickly. Given that his test was just suspicious and not positive. I have a feeling he knows of other test sample's somewhere that will pop up.

As for Cipollini, has he ever talked about doping or tested positive before?

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [9040 posts]
25th July 2013 - 1:48

14 Likes

So who were the saintly few that did not dope? Did they not because they refused or because they did not know? Then of course you could ask, if it was not illegal to take EPO, then was what they were doing technically (not morally) wrong?
But, what will happen in 10-20 years time? Will these riders expire early due to non-specific heart problems or other unexplained health issues?

posted by SideBurn [873 posts]
25th July 2013 - 3:01

14 Likes

A list of riders who did not show signs of doping and where they placed would be interesting - and probably quite short, based on what's been published.

posted by Bexleyhillbilly [42 posts]
25th July 2013 - 7:49

16 Likes

Cipollini's got bikes to sell, so keeps quiet. I wouldn't buy one.
Would like to see the "suspected clean" list.

posted by pmr [175 posts]
25th July 2013 - 8:28

11 Likes

SideBurn wrote:
SIf it was not illegal to take EPO, then was what they were doing technically (not morally) wrong?

We'd need a copy of the UCI anti-doping code for the time to be sure, but my recollection is that using/possessing etc EPO was banned, but because it was undetectable it was impossible to bust anyone for it.

That changed when the urine test was introduced in 2000, but you had to be mind-buggeringly unlucky to get pinged by that test because it was only effective for about 3 days after an injection until the body shed itself of EPO metabolites.

The 50 percent haematocrit rule continued to substitute for an EPO test for years before and after 2000. At the time it looked like a sensible piece of harm-minimisation and it did seem to reduce the number of fit young men dying in their sleep from turning their blood to 60 percent red cell sludge.

But it had the unintended consequence of making riders with fairly low natural haematocrits into chemical supermen because of the room for improvement possible with EPO. That's one reason his team was so pissed off with Bassons' refusal to dope.

He'd been hired in part because he had a low baseline, and with a higher VO2max than Lance Armsrong, if he'd juiced we might be talking about the Bassons era now and French cycling would be lamenting a decade of corruption rather than a decade of mediocrity.

John Stevenson's picture

posted by John Stevenson [1249 posts]
25th July 2013 - 8:31

12 Likes

pmr wrote:

Would like to see the "suspected clean" list.

For the 1996 Tour, it starts at 39th place Smile

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1996_Tour_de_France#General_classification

John Stevenson's picture

posted by John Stevenson [1249 posts]
25th July 2013 - 8:33

13 Likes

there may never be a 'CLEAN' list as a riders haematocrit level was allowed no more than 50%, so giving riders carte blanche to take EPO but keep it below a certain level.

Durand is right in that the past should not be paid for the future riders who are clean. There should be more coming forward to express this. Hands up and say 'we are the morons' not the present/future riders. of course there will still be a minority who still dope, but with different performance enhancing drugs of today.

posted by toothache90 [36 posts]
25th July 2013 - 8:45

13 Likes

John Stevenson wrote:
...making riders with fairly low natural haematocrits into chemical supermen because of the room for improvement possible with EPO. That's one reason his team was so pissed off with Bassons' refusal to dope.

He'd been hired in part because he had a low baseline, and with a higher VO2max than Lance Armsrong, if he'd juiced we might be talking about the Bassons era now and French cycling would be lamenting a decade of corruption rather than a decade of mediocrity.

Well you learn something new every day, I thought they were just peeved at him for rocking the omerta applecart.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3476 posts]
25th July 2013 - 9:35

14 Likes

Disappointed in O'Grady. Thought better of him and his decision to retire following the tour and before the senate report shows that he knew exactly what was coming. Lets give credit to those true cyclists who didn't decide to take the easy option and dope. Rather than publishing the names of those who did lets have a list of those whose samples were clean. It is these guys who should be promoted as the bastians of a cleaner sport and these guys who should still be involved with the sport. Clear out the repentant dopers as they can never really be trusted in a sport where the potential rewards continue to grow.

posted by JonnieC [12 posts]
25th July 2013 - 10:12

13 Likes

John Stevenson wrote:
pmr wrote:

Would like to see the "suspected clean" list.

For the 1996 Tour, it starts at 39th place Smile

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1996_Tour_de_France#General_classification

I wouldn't be so sure about Boardman now. Vaughters as good as outed him on Twitter yesterday.

I think his was one of the samples that wasn't retested so nothing can be proved either way.

posted by NeilG83 [260 posts]
25th July 2013 - 10:15

11 Likes

John Stevenson wrote:

For the 1996 Tour, it starts at 39th place Smile
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1996_Tour_de_France#General_classification

I was thinking of the legend who placed 39th before I even got to your post, let alone followed your link !

Cycling - not just a pastime or sport - free your soul on the open road.

timbola's picture

posted by timbola [212 posts]
25th July 2013 - 12:09

14 Likes

pmr wrote:
Cipollini's got bikes to sell, so keeps quiet. I wouldn't buy one.
Would like to see the "suspected clean" list.

Seems appropriate that the Vini Fantini team uses them then Wink

posted by Tom Amos [246 posts]
25th July 2013 - 17:57

11 Likes

it's great that they can test retrospectively - that should make the riders think twice before trying something dodgy.

the problem we have here is that the tests from 98 could only be conducted on the samples they had at hand. we will never really know who doped because not every rider was drug tested - making unfair on the riders who were tested (yeah, i get the irony in that statement)

we need some sort of amnesty to clear out the past and take the opportunity to learn from those riders so we can create a cleaner sport.

posted by dbb [34 posts]
26th July 2013 - 8:37

13 Likes

NeilG83 wrote:
John Stevenson wrote:
pmr wrote:

Would like to see the "suspected clean" list.

For the 1996 Tour, it starts at 39th place Smile

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1996_Tour_de_France#General_classification

I wouldn't be so sure about Boardman now. Vaughters as good as outed him on Twitter yesterday.

I think his was one of the samples that wasn't retested so nothing can be proved either way.

Don't think it's fair to say JV 'outed' CB. He's allowed an opinion, but I'm not aware of them being close enough for him to know. CBs overall GT record is not that great. He always said that most other riders would secure their next contract via a good tour, but he secured his next contract with just the prologue, because the resulting media coverage of him in the maillot jaune more than paid his wages.

Basically, he aimed to peak as if for a one-day race, and blitzed it on a sufficiently short course that EPO (which is I believe what the French Senate report has retested for) would have made little difference.

In any case, his sample is stated as 'missing'. Have things actually got to the stage where we go "well he must be guilty then"? Unless you're suggesting that riders other than Lance could slip a few quid in the direction of the UCI to 'mislay' the sample, then I think this is going too far.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3476 posts]
26th July 2013 - 10:18

14 Likes

Since pro cycling hit the spotlights for all the wrong reasons I have wondered how far back doping goes. Having only been aware of Tommy Simpsons story over the past 5 or 6 years it dawned on me that at pro level, doping of one sort or another was commonplace in the peloton for many decades.

In atheletics there are those who suggest that as testing will always be inaccurate then athletes should be allowed to take what they want. I don't hold that view but there are those that do. Maybe that ethos became the norm for the pro peloton over the decades since WW2.

I remember watching WW2 documentaries about US Bomber Pilots who were given Methamphetamine and other performance enhancing drugs to stay awake and alert and that even after the war the stuff was available over the counter without prescription in the USA. So it is easy to see that for commercially sponsored events such as the Pro tour, with such huge demands on human endurance, and the almost 'State condoning' of chemical performance enhancement that doping would gain a foothold in a sport like pro cycling. I am sure those invoilved will have said 'If everyone is doing it what difference does it make?...' '...Afterall the riders are being paid to ride so it's not like an amateur event.'

I think the UCI should simply say 'It is likely that, up to recently, doping of one sort or another, within pro cycling, was been so common that we should assume everyone was at it, at some level'.

I don't see any point in a truth and reconcilliation process as some riders will never want to openly admit fault and the story will drag on an on. If the UCI were to admit that doping was the norm, up to recently, then anyone who hasn't doped can come forward and be scrutinised. I doubt anyone will as we won't believe them anyway.

We will just have to accept that the ethos in the pro peloton was different to the ethos in amateur sport and now it is the same. And hooray to that.

posted by BigBear63 [72 posts]
26th July 2013 - 12:53

9 Likes

Be careful with the word "legend". That was used widely to describe Stuey O'Grady until a couple of days ago.

I am a massive O'Grady fan, and have a lot of sympathy for him, but I also hate dopers. Now I am really torn.

Well, I'll be...

posted by Zebra [27 posts]
26th July 2013 - 21:37

14 Likes

BigBear63 wrote:
Since pro cycling hit the spotlights for all the wrong reasons I have wondered how far back doping goes. Having only been aware of Tommy Simpsons story over the past 5 or 6 years it dawned on me that at pro level, doping of one sort or another was commonplace in the peloton for many decades.

In atheletics there are those who suggest that as testing will always be inaccurate then athletes should be allowed to take what they want. I don't hold that view but there are those that do. Maybe that ethos became the norm for the pro peloton over the decades since WW2.

I remember watching WW2 documentaries about US Bomber Pilots who were given Methamphetamine and other performance enhancing drugs to stay awake and alert and that even after the war the stuff was available over the counter without prescription in the USA. So it is easy to see that for commercially sponsored events such as the Pro tour, with such huge demands on human endurance, and the almost 'State condoning' of chemical performance enhancement that doping would gain a foothold in a sport like pro cycling. I am sure those invoilved will have said 'If everyone is doing it what difference does it make?...' '...Afterall the riders are being paid to ride so it's not like an amateur event.'

I think the UCI should simply say 'It is likely that, up to recently, doping of one sort or another, within pro cycling, was been so common that we should assume everyone was at it, at some level'.

I don't see any point in a truth and reconcilliation process as some riders will never want to openly admit fault and the story will drag on an on. If the UCI were to admit that doping was the norm, up to recently, then anyone who hasn't doped can come forward and be scrutinised. I doubt anyone will as we won't believe them anyway.

We will just have to accept that the ethos in the pro peloton was different to the ethos in amateur sport and now it is the same. And hooray to that.

Doping has been around a long time in the tour and cycling generally. Cheating in different forms has happened essentially since the tour started. In the very early days some competitors were disqualified for taking a train mid-stage.

Well, I'll be...

posted by Zebra [27 posts]
26th July 2013 - 21:42

16 Likes

BigBear63 wrote:

I think the UCI should simply say 'It is likely that, up to recently, doping of one sort or another, within pro cycling, was been so common that we should assume everyone was at it, at some level'.

But how disrispectful is that to all those who were riding clean??

Those busting their balls for pitance, race in, race out, never really quite making it to the big time.

Is something not owed to them,

I'm hugely disapointed in the O'Grady news, but i can't imagine how i'd feel if it came to light that Chris Boardman had doped, i'm not ashamed to say he's a hero of mine.

I think in light of what's come out over the last two years, any one who does come out and deny doping who wasn't clean would be asking for trouble, so hopefully he will state that he rode clean his whole career.

posted by mr_leemur [26 posts]
26th July 2013 - 22:25

12 Likes

Simply put "no one dopes to finish last". If you want to spot a doper get a good view of the podium.

Doping still exists, it's just done differently and is harder to detect. Cycling is really just a bit more 'honest' about the skeletons in the closet and gets labelled, but if athletes can get away with it they will. And cycling proves that athletes do get away with it.

Cycling is not clean, but at least it has a number of
measures to contain the issue. The recent scandal in sprinting is only the tip of the ice berg.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1205 posts]
27th July 2013 - 16:02

11 Likes

So Cipollini took EPO and yet still could barely get over a cat 4 climb (usually the first suspension bridge).

Fair play to the French at least they had the guts to out some of their "heroes" like Jalabert. Far more backbone than the shameful Spanish demonstrated in the recent Fuentes/Puerto trial.

Interesting that Abraham Olano is outed. If he is on the list then Indurain is heavily implicated given the Banesto link. Also conspicuous by absence are Zulle and Rominger from that era.

The whole thing is a house of cards and corrupt to the core. Cookson has a tough challenge to get elected. His ambitious agenda will touch the nerves of many who still hold positions of power and votes.

posted by RTB [87 posts]
27th July 2013 - 22:54

13 Likes

NeilG83 wrote:
I wouldn't be so sure about Boardman now.

OH COME ON...!

(holds on to shattered hopes.)
Please link to the offending tweet as evidence.



I am stronger than Mensa, Miller and Mailer, I spat out Plath and Pinter.

bikeboy76's picture

posted by bikeboy76 [1434 posts]
28th July 2013 - 0:34

8 Likes

I would suggest that CB's GC performances say that he played a non-marked hand, we know that Obree lost his pro status because he told the team doctor to f**k off when it was suggested that he "might want to try these" at the teams meet & greet before the season started. Both heroes of mine, got to believe that both of their performances (which go back to their junior/amateur days) are good & clean...

Currently going slower than I'd like...

posted by stealth [216 posts]
28th July 2013 - 9:15

11 Likes

John Stevenson wrote:
pmr wrote:

Would like to see the "suspected clean" list.

For the 1996 Tour, it starts at 39th place Smile

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1996_Tour_de_France#General_classification

Utterly wrong John. Most hypocritical cheat. Took all sorts, that's why he's a mess now and was the cause of the 'illness' behind retirement. I heard 1999 that some young riders on the World Class Performance Plan we're told the truth about their 1992 Olympic hero and then offered juice.

Vin Cox

posted by Vin Cox [51 posts]
29th July 2013 - 8:47

13 Likes