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Tour de France Thursday, 23 July, 1998, 20:08 GMT 21:08 UK
Festina riders detained in doping row
Richard Virenque surrounded by journalists
In the spotlight: Richard Virenque questioned
French police are questioning all nine riders from the disgraced Festina team expelled from the Tour de France last Friday.

In the latest twist to the doping scandal which has overshadowed this year's event, the nine riders agreed to help the police with their inquiries over the discovery of 400 phials of performance-enhancing drugs in a Festina team car a fortnight ago.

The riders include four-time King of the Mountains Richard Virenque and world road race champion Laurent Brochard.

Before the start of the Tour, Festina were classed the world's top cycling team.

French television said the riders could be held for four days for questioning about the alleged use of drugs banned by the sport's governing body.

Officials detained

Six more cycling team officials were detained on Thursday by police investigating the use of drugs in the sport - three from Festina and the others from Dutch team TVM.

Jeroen Blijlevens
Jeroen Blijlevens: TVM stage winner
A TVM team director, mechanic and team doctor are believed to be helping the police with their enquiries into the seizure of drugs in a team car at Reims in eastern France last March.

They were arrested at the team's hotel on the Tour's rest day on Thursday morning.

TVM's sprinter Jeroen Blijlevens won stage four of this year's Tour.

Festina stars questioned

At the Lyon headquarters of Festina, assistant team directors Miguel Moreno and Michel Gros, and business manager Joel Chabiron were taken into custody by police from Lille.

Roussel
Under investigation: Bruno Roussel
Officers in the northern French city have been heading the investigation since the phials of EPO, a drug used to boost oxygen levels in the blood, were seized by French customs officials in a Festina team car driven by masseur Willy Voet a fortnight ago.

Tour de France officials took the unprecedented step of expelling the team last Friday after team director Bruno Roussel admitted to the programme of doping.

Roussel, Voet, and team doctor Eric Ryckaert have already been placed under investigation.

Richard Virenque's saddle
Empty saddles: Riding overshadowed by drugs
The Festina riders arrived at a Lyon police station on Thursday where they were formally taken into custody for questioning.

Investigators also plan to examine Festina's accounting records after admissions of a doping "slush fund" made up from a portion of riders' winnings.

Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, a former sports minister who has attacked previous drugs scandals in the Tour, held a meeting with government ministers in Paris to discuss combating doping in the sport.

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Radio 5Live's Simon Brotherton: "A glorious day in the Pyrenees"
See also:

18 Jul 98 | Tour de France
19 Jul 98 | Tour de France
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