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Court Clears French Cycling Star

December 22, 2000

LILLE, France (AP) _ French cycling star Richard Virenque was acquitted Friday of helping to supply performance-enhancing drugs to his former Festina team before the 1998 Tour de France.

But a judge convicted two Festina officials.

Former Festina trainer Bruno Roussel was sentenced to a one-year suspended prison term and fined $7,000. Willy Voet, the team’s physiotherapist, was given a 10-month suspended sentence and a $4,200 fine.

Voet was caught at the French-Belgian border, just before the start of the Tour de France, with a stash of illicit products, notably the performance-enhancing EPO, in the team car he was driving.

Festina was expelled from the Tour, which was then dogged throughout by the scandal. Police followed riders and searched hotel rooms for suspected drugs.

Virenque had been charged with ``complicity to facilitate and incite the use of doping products.″ Roussel and Voet were convicted under the same charges.

Virenque, the only one of nine defendants acquitted in the trial, still faces probable sanctions from Swiss Cycling at the demand of the International Cycling Union. The star climber broke down during the dramatic fall trial and admitted to taking doping products.

The ICU is expected to rule Dec. 29 on sanctions against Virenque.

Among the others sentenced Friday were the doctor for the Once team, Nicolas Terrados, and former Francaise des Jeux team trainer Eric Paranier.

Terrados received a $4,200 fine plus a customs fine of $2,145. Paranier was fined $1,430 and given a nine-month suspended jail sentence.

Also, there were five-month suspended sentences for Festina’s head of communications, Joel Chabiron, and former Festina physiotherapist Jean-Marie Dalibot, and a nine-month suspended sentence and a $2,800 fine for Jeff d’Hont, a former trainer for the Francaise des Jeux.

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