Bahrain Victorious riders and staff received visits from police officers who searched their properties ahead of the team's departure for the Tour de France's start in Copenhagen.
The team has accused the authorities of "intentionally damaging" their reputation ahead of the biggest race of the season, but insisted they will "cooperate constructively".
Last year, the team's vehicles and the hotel housing their riders were raided during the final week of the Tour, following authorisation from the Marseille prosecutor's office — the same authority who investigated Nairo Quintana and Arkéa–Samsic at the race in 2020.
Now, the team has revealed news of the latest searches and questioned the timing of the investigation given last year's "did not yield any results".
A Bahrain Victorious statement read:
Some riders and staff of Team Bahrain Victorious had Police search their homes today before their departure to the Tour de France.
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 house searches experienced today by members from Team Bahrain Victorious represent a continuation of the investigation process that began during the team’s successful performances at last year’s Tour de France. Bahrain Victorious were the only team in the Tour de France under investigation during the race last year. At no time, and so far, have the team been informed of the progress, results or received any feedback about the investigation from the Marseilles Prosecutor’s Office. Bahrain Victorious has repeatedly requested access to the file or acquaintance with the state of investigation but without success.
Moreover, shortly after the investigation was carried out, the investigators illegally provided information regarding the seized items, on the basis of which an article was published in a professional medical journal. The journal stated that the team did not possess illicit substances. Still, this behaviour of the investigators casts doubt on the investigation’s credibility, given that information about the investigation by the French authorities comes to the media. In contrast, the team does not receive any feedback.
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.
What happened at last year's race?
During last year's Tour de France, police opened a preliminary investigation into possible doping allegations within the team and raided the hotel they stayed at in Pau after stage 17.
Marseille's prosecutor's office said it was looking into the possible "acquisition, transportation, possession and importing of a prohibited substance or method for use by an athlete without justification by members of Team Bahrain Victorious."
Nobody was placed under formal investigation following the night-time raid involving around 50 officers, although team boss Milan Eržen confirmed riders' training files had been taken.
"Nothing special, we have a visit from the police, they ask for riders training files, they check bus and that's it," he said at the time.
Possessing, selling or using doping products are all criminal offences in France, but nobody was arrested during the investigation and it largely slipped out of the spotlight until today.
Bahrain Victorious have been left angered by the timing of the latest searches, four days before their eight-man team, including British rider Fred Wright and Milan-San Remo winner Matej Mohorič, compete in the opening time trial. The team has not disclosed which riders or staff had their homes searched.
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.