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Friday, 3 November, 2000, 17:25 GMT
Symbolic doping damages sought
Richard Virenque
Richard Virenque has been the centre of attention
The Festina doping scandal has taken a new twist - a number of cycling officials, race organisers and sponsors, including the watch-maker Festina itself, have demanded symbolic damages from a French court.

Though not all directly involved in the case, the various groups exercised their rights as civil parties under French law to give evidence in court over actions they believe have affected their activities.

Their lawyers told the court in Lille their clients deserved sympathy, and demanded a symbolic French franc (0.09) in damages over the Festina doping scandal, which broke on the 1998 Tour de France.

Festina, Spanish company ONCE, the Tour de France company, the French Cycling Federation (FFC), the International Cycling Union (UCI) and two riders, Laurent Brochard and Pascal Herve, were all represented.

Research

Ambroise Arnaud, for Festina, pointed out that the company had been actively involved in the fight against doping since 1998, saying its name had been associated with drug-taking but it had decided to fight it rather than quit the sport.

He said Festina has created a foundation to support scientific research into drug taking and was helping riders fight drug addictions.

Pierre-Yves Couturier, for team sponsors ONCE, told the court that no ONCE rider had ever tested positive for drugs and that the accused in the case had not expressed their regrets for using drugs.

The UCI and FFC also argued that they had taken action against doping, although UCI lawyer Philippe Verbiest conceded that perhaps more could have been done.

Penalties

Fabienne Fajgenbaum, for the Tour de France company, said the trial had been a victory for justice over a code of silence, and pointed out the race's role against doping.

Brochard and Herve, who gave evidence that they had used drugs, demanded damages through their counsel Gilbert Collard, who argued that nothing had been done to alert riders to the dangers of doping.

The federal prosecutor is due to address the court on Monday, the third week of the trial, to ask for penalties to be imposed on the accused.

The 10 accused in the trial, including leading rider Richard Virenque, face up to two years in prison and fines of up 100,000 French francs (about 9,000) if found guilty of conspiracy to provide drugs to three teams in the 1998 Tour de France.

Making history

Several leading riders have admitted to using illegal performance enhancers at the trial, which started on 23 October.

The case came about as a result of the biggest doping scandal in cycling history, when the entire Festina team was kicked out of the 1998 Tour following the discovery of 40 bottles of doping products, including EPO, in a team car.

The car's driver, Willy Voet, and Festina manager Bruno Roussel are among the defendants, along with Virenque, who has now admitted taking drugs.

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See also:

31 Oct 00 |  Other Sports
Judge derides UCI doping claims
25 Oct 00 |  Other Sports
Aussies furious at Virenque
24 Oct 00 |  Other Sports
Virenque admits taking banned drugs
02 Nov 00 |  Other Sports
Baal: 'Cycling is beset by drugs'
24 Oct 00 |  Other Sports
'Festina Affair': A timeline
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