Prosecutor asks charges to be dropped against Virenque

A French prosecutor today asked that charges in a major doping trial be dropped against French cyclist Richard Virenque but recommended suspended prison terms and fines against other cycling officials implicated in the case.

A French prosecutor today asked that charges in a major doping trial be dropped against French cyclist Richard Virenque but recommended suspended prison terms and fines against other cycling officials implicated in the case.

Virenque, a star climber and former member of the Festina cycling team, is accused of "complicity in facilitating and inciting the use of doping" in the drug scandal that nearly derailed the 1998 Tour de France.

The state prosecutor called for a suspended jail sentence of 18 months with a fine of 50,000 francs ($6,700) against Bruno Roussel, the former sports director of the Festina team, and a 14-month suspended sentence against Willy Voet, the former team trainer who was caught at the Franco-Belgian border in July 1998 in possession of drugs.

The prosecutor recommended suspended sentences of two months to one year and fines ranging from 10,000 to 20,000 francs ($1,333 to $2,666) for the others charged, including the doctor of the Spanish Once team, another trainer, two members of the Festina team and a couple of pharmacists.

Festina was expelled from the 1998 Tour de France after a stash of products, notably the performance-enhancer EPO, was found in a team car.

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