CYCLING: Call for rider to be released

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The Independent Online
THE CHAIRMAN of the Royal Dutch Cycling Union yesterday called on the French authorities to allow a cycling team leader arrested during this summer's Tour de France to return home. Cees Priem has not been allowed to leave France since 23 July when he and the TVM team doctor, Andrei Mikhailov, were arrested following the discovery of drugs in the team's hotel. TVM cyclists were taken to a hospital in Albertville for checks and exited the Tour.

The Royal Dutch Cycling Union president, Joop Atsma, said Priem has been held too long. A judge is due to review the case today and could order the release of Priem, who must report daily to police.

Atsma, a Christian Democrat member of Dutch parliament, said there is support across parliament for action to relieve "Priem's hopeless-looking situation." Atsma suggested French authorities were holding Priem to protest at the Dutch government's liberal drugs policy.

The investigation began last March, when customs agents found 100 doses of EPO, which increases oxygen to the red blood cells, in a team car. That only came to light following the scandal involving the Festina team, who were expelled from the Tour after riders admitted taking performance enhancing drugs.