Wednesday 29 June 2011

Lanterne Rouge champ suspected of doping

Belgian newspaper SportWereld carries a shock story this morning that Wim Vansevenant, who held the Tour de France Lanterne Rouge title a record three times for being the last rider to complete the race, is under suspicion of doping.

According to the paper, a package containing "thousands of dollars of cutting-edge superdoping was bought in Australia" and subsequently intercepted by Belgian customs agents two weeks ago at Zaventem airport just outside Brussels, but was not made public until yesterday. Vansevenent, aged 39, due to depart for the Tour de France where he was to drive one of the Omega-Pharma Lotto VIP coaches - though he is no longer going, his links to the team will immediately create suspicions that the performance-enhancing drugs contained within the package were destined for them. This, if one discounts the ongoing investigation into Alberto Contador, is the first scandal of this year's Tour which many riders, teams and fans were hoping would remain controversy-free after many years of similar problems. Omega riders - who include Philippe Gilbert, ranked number one in the world by the IG Markets Index - will now face increased tests as UCI anti-doping testers will want to be certain nothing is untoward.
Wim Vansevenant was Lanterne Rouge a record three times prior to his retirement in 2008
However, it is not yet known for certain where or with whom the drugs were intended to end up, or even if Mr. Vansevenant had in fact ordered them - it's not impossible that they were sent to him in a deliberate attempt to stir up problems for the team. Details of the investigation are secret, with Francis Clarysse, named by SportWereld as a "national hormones magistrate," saying that he "can only confirm an investigation [is in progress]." It also states that various sources believe the contents of the package were indeed destined to be used by cyclists which, even should the package prove to have been sent in an attempt to incriminate Mr. Vansevenant and the Omega team, is enough to further damage the sport's reputation.

Omega-Pharma Lotto subsequently denied all links to the parcel and stated that they are "stunned" by the news. "Everybody is very surprised - I'm surprised and have no idea where this came from," said team boss Marc Sergeant. "I saw Vansevenant at the Belgian championships and he acting normally and calmly. I think he himself knew nothing of the matter."

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