VILLIE-MORGON, France – The old problem of doping hit the Tour de France head-on Tuesday when a French rider was arrested at his team hotel.
The rider, Remy Di Gregorio, was suspended by his Cofidis team.
Police moved on Di Gregorio on the 2012 Tour’s first rest day. Judicial officials said two other people suspected of supplying the Frenchman with banned substances were also arrested – one with the rider in Bourg-en-Bresse, and another in Marseille.
The officials requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak.
Cycling’s premier event has long been dogged by doping scandals.
Two-time winner Alberto Contador of Spain is sitting out this year to serve a doping ban from the 2010 race, while seven-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong has been charged by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency with participating in a vast conspiracy. The American has declared his innocence and is asking a federal court to block USADA’s case.
Di Gregorio’s arrest comes after an investigation that began last June and is led by the French police agency responsible for doping investigations, OCLAESP, and Marseille police.
“(The police) have followed Remy’s actions for a good while,” Cofidis manager Yvon Sanquer said at a news conference. “If I had ever been aware or anyone else had been aware, Remy’s time with the team would have been over the very moment when we learned of it.”
Sanquer said he learned about the arrest from police just before the team was to take a morning training ride.
Sanquer said Di Gregorio’s teammates reacted with a mix of “anger and devastation. … When I explained the situation to them, it was painful for them. There were tears.”
The 26-year-old Di Gregorio was in 35th place after Monday’s ninth stage. The Marseille native turned pro in 2005 with French team Francaise des Jeux, and was once considered one of the most promising French riders.
Sanquer said he thought Di Gregorio, who recently became a father, “didn’t understand the breadth of what he was doing and the seriousness of what he could be doing” if the accusations turn out to be true.
Cofidis pulled out of the 2008 Tour de France after Italian rider Cristian Moreni’s positive test for testosterone.
In 2004, French police arrested then-Cofidis riders David Millar of Britain and Cedric Vasseur of France in another doping investigation and seized male hormones, EPO and amphetamines.
Another ex-Cofidis rider, Phillipe Gaumont, accused several of his teammates and the team doctor at the time of widespread doping.