Europol ends Bahrain Victorious anti-doping investigation

Spokesperson for the European law enforcement agency says "operational phase of the coordinated action against the use of prohibited substances is over"

Bahrain Victorious team
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The European Union agency for law enforcement cooperation [Europol] has ended its involvement in investigations into alleged doping within the Bahrain Victorious cycling team that took place earlier this year. 

A spokesperson for Europol told Cycling Weekly the agency is no longer involved, the case is now “in the hands of the judiciary” in France.

The team had its hotel in Pau raided by French police at the 2021 Tour de France then prior to this July's Tour several riders and staff members of the state-backed squad had their homes across Europe searched in raids carried out by Europol

Then in Denmark at the Tour's Grand Depart the team had their hotel raided in Copenhagen, the night before the race got underway. 

However, Europol confirmed to Cycling Weekly this afternoon that it is no longer involved in the case. Furthermore, it has had “no overview” of any further developments involving the case.

They said: “The operational phase of the coordinated action against the use of prohibited substances in cycling races is over. 

“Europol supported the operational phase by deploying its officers in the participating countries to facilitate the exchange of information and provide forensic support for the seized electronic devices.

"The case is now in the hands of the judiciary.” 

At the time of the pre-Tour de France raids, Bahrain Victorious released a statement that said the searches and timing of the investigations were aimed at “intentionally damaging the team's reputation.” 

Danish police searched the team’s hotel rooms and vehicles at 5:30am, the day before the Tour de France got underway. It was initially understood that no items had been seized from the team at the time of the raids. 

However, a statement from the public prosecutor’s office in Marseille, France given to AFP at the time said that electronics and medicines had been seized earlier on.

Referring to raids carried out across Europe between June 27 and June 30, the statement read: "The operation, coordinated by Eurojust with the help of Europol, allowed the judicial and police authorities of those countries to carry out several searches at the homes of the manager, three riders, the osteopath, and a doctor of the professional cycling team Bahrain Victorious, as well as at the headquarters of WINNING SRL, the team's holding company. 

"Electronic material (phones, computers, hard drives) and medicines - of which the nature and origin remain undetermined, or which require a prescription - have been seized." 

The prosecutor's office statement added: "The items seized will be subject to analysis and further investigation."

SILENCE FROM EUROPOL BROKEN

Bahrain Victorious

(Image credit: Getty Images)

When the Tour de France concluded in Paris, Bahrain Victorious' general manager Milan Eržen spoke to Cycling Weekly and said that the team had received no further updates from authorities including Europol on the situation.

He said: "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."

The news that Europol are no longer involved will likely come as a welcome update for the team. When speaking to Cycling Weekly earlier this week star rider and two-time Tour stage winner Matej Mohorič said that he was not aware of any further updates from the authorities on the case.

“For me, it’s in the past,” Mohorič said.

The team also had it's hotel raided by French police at the Tour de France in 2021 when they were staying in Pau.

At the time, now retired Sonny Colbrelli said that he felt the raids were sparked by "pure jealousy" around the teams success that year.

Cycling Weekly has contacted both Bahrain Victorious and the relevant French authorities for comment.

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