Bahrain Victorious' general manager Milan Eržen has defended his team in the wake of pre-Tour de France hotel raids by Europol as part of an ongoing investigation into "prohibited substances in cycling races."
The agency searched 14 locations in six countries between June 27 and 30, casting a shadow over the start of the Tour.
Medicines and electronics were seized by police in Denmark at the request of the French authorities, while some staff and riders had their own homes searched. A Europol statement at the time said that the investigation was being led by the French OCLAESP (Central Office against Environmental and Public Health Crime) "to look into possible doping allegations of a cycling team participating in the Tour de France."
The team were not subject to any further interrogations during the Tour, but the story did take a twist when an anonymous French blogger claimed to be behind the investigation, saying that he gave false information to French journalist Theirry Vildary and former Festina member of staff Antoine Vayer in order to discredit them. The claims remain unverified.
Speaking to Cycling Weekly and VeloNews in Paris after the end of the Tour, Eržen suggested that there was little basis for the investigation: "Look, of course it’s frustrating, but from the other side, finally people need to understand that all these results, [the] speed of the races, it’s not that somebody is using something [illegal].
"Guys are working really hard. Material in the last 10 years has changed a lot, [and] the teams invest a lot of money. Researchers [look at] what kind of tyres, what kind of wheels they will use in the races.
"You will always have jealous people who will start thinking that something is wrong. Nothing is wrong. In the last 10 years, anyone who is thinking of using something [illegal] needs to be an idiot. That’s it. They need to be an idiot."
Eržen continued. "I will explain to you that, for example, our budget is €20million, and many of the teams have a bigger budget than us and they cannot win stages for 10 years at the Tour de France.
"They expose us, the general manager, who have a big[ger] amount of money, why? Some other teams are winning races with less money, and they [other teams] cannot win the races. What will he answer? We know somebody is saying something behind."
Asked if the team are 100 percent clean, he responded: "We never talk about these things because we are working by the rules. We never broke any rules about that. We will always do it the right way, [and] that means we will prove we are not doing anything wrong."
Europol have not updated the team about the investigation, with Eržen saying: "We don't have any answers. I cannot tell you anything because we don't have any information.
"It's really difficult to explain something if you don't have any information. When we have something, of course we will say. We are just waiting."
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