a parcel of performance enhancing drugs intercepted by Belgian customs two weeks ago was destined for him.
Meanwhile, team bosses are doing their utmost to sever all links with Vansevenant, emphasising that they were in no way involved with the purchase of the drugs. "I hope, for his sake, that this is a minor controversy," says manager Geert Coeman, "but even if he is completely cleared we won't be using him at the Tour."
Vansevenant earned one of the most coveted positions in professional cycling by finishing last in a record three Tours de France, but had been employed by the Omega-Pharma Lotto team to drive one of their VIP buses during this year's event which begins on Saturday. However, he has denied that the contents of the parcel were to be supplied to or used by the team's Tour riders, claiming that the total amount was small and intended for personal use - depending on the drugs involved, this may be a criminal offence but would not involve UCI or WADA investigation as he is no longer a professional cyclist. Earlier reports do not state the quantity involved, merely that it was likely to be worth thousands of dollars - with the high prices of pharmaceuticals, this does not necessarily rule out personal use. The Belgian says that the drug was the synthetic peptide TB-500 which he claims he has been using to maintain muscle mass since his retirement.
Sadly, even if it can be proved beyond all doubt that the package's contents were indeed intended for Vansevenant and that he was acting entirely independently and even if all the Omega members produce clean samples for the barrage of tests to which they're now going to be subjected, the damage has already been done: a large percentage of the public is already convinced that all cyclists dope and that teams encourage them to do so. Even if this does turn out to be a minor controversy, doping scandals of any size put off sponsors and do enormous damage to the sport - especially in the weeks before the grandest of Grand Tours when the eyes of the world's press are on cycling and avidly awaiting even a suggestion of a doping story. For that reason, Omega are doing the right thing by cutting all links to him and should not reinstate them no matter what the outcome. Any hero status he once had is now lost.