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banner Tuesday, 17 July, 2001, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
TVM bosses punished for doping
TVM during Tour de France 98
None of the TVM riders were charged after the incident
A French court has found three officials from the disbanded Dutch TVM team guilty of providing riders with performance-enhancing drugs ahead of the 1998 Tour de France.

Former TVM team director Cees Priem was judged to have organised the doping programme.

He was given an 18-month suspended sentence and fined 80,000 francs (7,400) by a court in Reims on Tuesday.

The team's Russian doctor Andrei Mikhailov, who was found to have supervised the doping, got a 12-month suspended sentence and 60,000-franc fine.

This is a very severe decision - even the state prosecutor admitted there was no direct proof
  Philippe Bouchez
TVM lawyer

Jan Moors, a team physiotherapist, received a six-month suspended sentence and 40,000-franc fine.

The three, who lodged immediate appeals, were also fined a total of 50,000 francs for customs violations.

Philippe Bouchez, representing Priem, said: "This is a very severe decision.

"Even the state prosecutor had acknowledged that there was no direct proof."

The trial is the latest in a series of doping-related incidents to rock the cycling world since the scandal-plagued 1998 Tour de France, when a larger drug controversy involving the Festina team almost derailed the event entirely.

None of the TVM riders, who were part of a group that staged a sit-down protest during the Tour, were charged.

The TVM affair began on 9 March 1998, when customs officers seized 104 vials of erythropoietin (EPO) from a team vehicle on its way back from the Tour of Murcia in Spain.

Mikhailov maintained his innocence throughout the trial, saying that he bought the drug in Spain, where it is widely available, to supply a Russian hospital which treats children with leukaemia.

He admitted only that he had breached customs laws.

But used syringes with traces of EPO were found in some of TVM's team trucks, and also in the team hotel.

Marco Pantani won a 1998 Tour full of controversy
Marco Pantani won a 1998 Tour full of controversy

Mikhailov was held in custody for more than four months.

Moors, meanwhile, admitted that as part of his job he had prepared "vitamin" injections for riders after Mikhailov's arrest.

He said he had also taken care of the team bag, which contained all medicines, until the team was searched again early in the 1998 Tour.

However Moors has always denied that he administered injections to riders.

"I don't know how to give injections," he said. "The riders injected themselves."

Philippe Gombert, Mikhailov's lawyer, said that no proof of EPO doping was brought forward during the trial and the products seized were just for recuperative purposes.

TVM subsequently pulled out as sponsors of the team, which has since been renamed Farms Frites.

2001 concerns

Concerns about EPO have remained an issue for organisers of the 2001 race, the tenth stage of which was won by Lance Armstrong on Tuesday.

They say they will test more riders this year and will use a new urine test capable of detecting the drug.

"It's not a coincidence that this decision has come out in the middle of the Tour de France," Bouchez said.

"French authorities want to clean up sports. This was more of a political decision than a legal one."

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