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Cops to Question 3 in Tour de France

July 23, 1998

PARIS (AP) _ The doping scandal overshadowing the Tour de France grew today when investigators summoned officials from the TVM team, hours after French police began questioning cyclists from the disgraced Festina team.

Police in Pamiers ordered TVM’s sporting director, doctor and chief mechanic to answer questions about their role in the possible use of illegal doping substances, according to judicial sources.

TVM, a Dutch team, came under the spotlight earlier this week when it was revealed the substance EPO was found in the car of one of its officials in March.

The International Union of Cycling (UCI), the sport’s governing body, asked the Dutch cycling federation to carry out an inquiry and tour organizers threatened to expel TVM from the race.

Judicial sources said Thursday police found evidence of used drugs in a suitcase and trashcan during a search of the team’s hotel in Toulouse and Metz, though the nature of the drugs is still not known.

Meanwhile, six riders from the Festina team thrown out of the Tour de France for using EPO arrived at a Lyon police station for questioning. They were Richard Virenque, Pascal Herve, Didier Rous, Alex Zulle, Armin Meier and Laurent Dufaux.

Earlier in the day, three other officials at the Festina team were detained for questioning. They included the team’s two joint sporting directors, Miguel Moreno and Michel Gros, and logistical director Joel Sabiron.

Festina team director Bruno Roussel, doctor Eric Ryckaert and physiotherapist Willy Voet already are being detained by police investigating the scandal.

The already tarnished image of the tour was damaged further when the French newspaper Le Parisien reported the Belgian judge investigating the Festina case has proof the team’s riders took EPO.

Belgian judge Eric Van de Sijpe has medical records and computer files proving the drug was supplied to team riders, Le Parisien said. It reported that in March the judge ordered a search of the Festina team doctor’s offices.

Investigators unearthed computer data, all coded, which detailed the use of EPO by specific riders, its absorption by the body and the development of red cells in the blood stream.

The code name ``Willy″ appeared in many of the computer files, but until the arrest of Voet on July 8, the judge was unable to trace the person’s identity.

The Belgian judge told the newspaper that he is ready to send his findings to French investigators if they ask for it.

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