Jeannie Longo, the French cyclist who has won 59 national titles during her career, is at the centre of a storm regarding the alleged supply of EPO to her husband and coach Patrice Ciprelli. Longo is already under investigation for failing to notify her whereabouts for out-of-competition tests and could face a ban that may end her ambitions of competing in the London Olympics next year at the age of 52, not to mention next week's world championships in Copenhagen.
Yesterday’s edition of the French sports daily L’Equipe reported allegations made by the American former professional cyclist, Joe Papp, that he had supplied Ciprelli with EPO, the implication being that it was destined to be used by Longo, Olympic road race champion in 1996 and winner of 13 world titles on the road and the track.
According to L’Equipe, which published copies of what it claimed were emails and faxes exchanged between Papp, Ciprelli and a Chinese supplier whose name was given as Chen, the Frenchman ordered 80,000 iu (units) of a Chinese version of EPO, called Eposin, in April 2007. Longo’s name is not mentioned in the correspondence.
AFP reports that Papp claimed: "I sold EPO to Ciprelli around this time. He contacted our website and specifically asked how much it would cost for 80,000 iu of EPO to be sent to France. He mentioned it was for his wife."
France’s national cycling federation, the FFC, has announced that it will investigate Papp’s allegations and said in a statement: “In accordance with the federation's anti-doping rules and given the gravity of the accusations we have decided to open disciplinary proceedings against Patrice Ciprell,” who has been suspended from coaching duties.
Bruno Ravaz, who acts as lawyer for Ciprelli and Longo, speaking to RTL radio, rejected the allegations made against the former, reports AFP.
"It's crazy,” he said. “Patrice Ciprelli totally denies any implication (in the affair), for him it's all a bunch of lies. Jeannie Longo has never had anything to do with doping, so I can imagine how stunned she was when she heard this."
Earlier this month, it was revealed that France’s anti-doping agency, the AFLD, had told Longo last week that she could face a ban of between three months and two years after being warned on three occasions after failing to provide details of her precise location for out-of-competition tests.
Last week, in a statement sent to AFP, she said: "I've been tested more than any other athlete in the world and not once has there been cause for any suspicion on my sporting integrity.
"I'm confident the French cycling federation will treat this matter in an impartial and objective manner."
AFP reports that the allegations made by Papp, who himself pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to distribute doping products including EPO, have been communicated to anti-doping authorities in the US, as well as to the AFLD.
Papp received a two-year ban for EPO use after testing positive during the 2006 Tour of Turkey, and since then has co-operated with anti-doing investigators, including acting as a witness for the USADA in the Floyd Landis case.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.