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A bit of Tour de France déjà vu came on Monday as Bahrain-Victorious confirmed that the homes of some of its riders and staff were searched by police ahead of the Grand Depart in Copenhagen on Friday.
Following on from an ongoing investigation which began at the 2021 Tour de France, wherein French police raided the hotel of the WorldTour team after stage 17 of the race, the team released a statement on Monday confirming that the new round of police searches had taken place.
On Monday, Spanish cycling website Ciclo21 reported that European police agency Europol “has carried out two searches at the homes of the official staff of the Asian team in Slovenia, Poland and Spain, according to reliable sources consulted by this medium.”
In a strongly-worded statement, the team responded and condemned the timing of the search, saying:
“Team Bahrain Victorious always works based on the highest standards of professionalism in sports, including the integrity of all professional members and competitors. The team cooperates constructively in all procedures and with all competent institutions. The investigation into the members of the team, which started almost a year ago and did not yield any results, continues just before the start of the most important cycling race, the Tour de France, and damages the reputation of individuals and Team Bahrain Victorious. Due to recent investigations, the team feels the timing of this investigation is aimed at intentionally damaging the team’s reputation.”
The statement went on to further question the motives behind the investigation into the team and the timing ahead of the three-week race claiming intentional reputational damage.
“After almost a year of unsuccessful efforts by the team to obtain additional information, the investigators decided on new investigations just days before the start of the most important cycling race, which undoubtedly casts a shadow of doubt on the purpose of the investigation.
The team have always cooperated completely transparently with all competent institutions and will continue to do so in the future, with the hope of greater transparency and a sense of the independence of investigators, as well as equal treatment of all teams.”
At the 2021 Tour, police searched the rooms of Bahrain riders and staff with the Marseille prosecutor’s office revealing in a statement that the search was for evidence of the “acquisition, transportation, possession and importing of a prohibited substance or method for use by an athlete without justification by members of Team Bahrain Victorious, currently in action at the 2021 Tour de France.” However, in the year since no charges have been filed.
The team would not confirm which riders or staff were searched. Media reports allege that the home of team manager Milan Erzan had his home in Slovenia searched.