Cycling: Drugs raids lead to arrest of ex-Cofidis rider Sassone

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The Independent Online

The continuing investigation by French police into a drugs ring masterminded by a masseur employed by Cofidis, the squad the leading British cyclist David Millar rides for, has led to another former rider from the team being arrested.

The Frenchman Robert Sassone, one of 2001's World Track Champions, was taken into custody yesterday afternoon.

Another former Cofidis rider, the Pole Marek Rutkiewicz, and a masseur still working for the team, Boguslaw Madejak, were arrested during the previous 48 hours. The latter, a Pole with French nationality, is suspected to be the brains behind a drugs ring importing illegal substances from Eastern Europe.

Police sources have confirmed that a number of illegal substances, including testosterone, amphetamines and the red blood cell-boosting hormone EPO, had been found in small quantities at Sassone's home in Hyers, southern France.

If Sassone does not appear to have had a major role, if any, in the ring, Rutkiewicz and Madejak are expected to be placed under formal investigation - the step prior to pressing charges in the French legal system - in the near future.

Team officials have argued that the situation is "by no means similar to the Festina affair" - the drugs scandal which rocked cycling six years ago.

The investigators themselves are equally keen to sit on the fence for now. A police representative, Catherine Briguet, argued yesterday afternoon that "there's been nothing huge so far, but nothing suggests that we won't be interested in other individuals later on." As for Millar, the police have emphasised that he is not under suspicion.

Alasdair Fotheringham writes for Cycling Weekly

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