Cycling: Cofidis closely monitored on race return

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The Independent Online

Cofidis, the team of the British rider David Millar which is at the centre of a drug scandal, returned to competition yesterday with a new set of rules and minus the team manager, Alain Bondue, and doctor, Jean-Jacques Menuet, who resigned on Tuesday.

The coach, Francis Van Londersele, is heading Cofidis temporarily and David Riabi is taking over as team doctor.

Less than a month after the team took time out so that their sponsor could reassess and the team could restructure, riders were on the road yesterday for the start of the low-key Quatre Jours de Dunkerque race.

After missing the Paris-Roubaix classic, authorisation was given by Cofidis, a loan company, to return to racing. But first, changes were put in place, including an arsenal of rules that Cofidis, one of France's leading teams, says are "more constraining than the current federal laws and rules".

Menuet was among those accused by the rider Philippe Gaumont, who has since been fired from the team, of having a role in the doping scandal which broke in January.

Among new measures, Cofidis riders will be subjected to six annual random tests in addition to regular tests; two extra annual check-ups that include blood and hormonal tests; capillary tests twice a year to detect cocaine, amphetamines, heroine, stimulants and other illicit substances; and an annual psychological assessment, according to Cofidis. In addition, riders are limited to 90 days of racing a year, practice will be limited to France and pay will no longer be calculated according to a cyclist's standings in the International Cyclist Union.

Gaumont made a number of allegations against the Cofidis team. Among them, he accused Menuet of having given cortisone and human growth hormone injections to riders. Gaumont's testimony also accuses Bondue of paying a Tour de France motorcycle rider to transport the banned performance enhancer EPO, or erythropoietin. Bondue denied the allegation.

Six riders, including Gaumont, who was fired in February, and a physiotherapist have been placed under investigation in the affair.

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