<
>

Police raid Bahrain Victorious team at Tour de France in doping investigation

The Bahrain Victorious team competing at the Tour de France was raided by French police on the eve of Thursday's stage as part of a doping investigation, according to judicial and police officials.

The team confirmed in a statement that riders' rooms were searched by officers at the hotel it stayed in in the southwestern city of Pau.

In a statement to The Associated Press, the Marseille prosecutor in charge of the case said a preliminary investigation targeting members of the team was opened on July 3 "for acquisition, transport, possession, import of a substance or method prohibited for use by an athlete without medical justification."

Judicial officials in Pau confirmed "judiciary actions" took place at the team hotel without providing further details.

About 25 officers from a special public health unit (OCLAESP) in charge of the case were involved in the search, according to police.

"Despite being unaware of the investigation reasons, the team was also requested to provide all training files which were compiled and presented to the officers as requested," the team said.

"We were greeted by several French police officers. We were not given a warrant to read through, but the team complied with all the officers' requests," technical director Vladimir Miholjević said. "The process had impacted our riders recovery and meal planning, and as a professional team the wellbeing of our team is a key priority."

Ahead of Thursday's stage in the Pyrenees, Peio Bilbao of Spain is the the team's top-placed rider in the general classification, lagging nearly 13 minutes behind Tour de France leader Tadej Pogacar.

Team leader Jack Haig crashed out early in the race, breaking a collarbone. The seven Bahrain Victorious riders remaining in the race have, however, been performing well since, posting two stage wins.

Slovenian Matej Mohoric earned his first stage win on the Tour following a long breakaway in Stage 7 and Dylan Teuns won in the Alps. In addition, Wouter Poels holds the best climber's polka-dot jersey ahead of Pogacar.

Mohoric said the team had nothing to hide as he was about to start Thursday's 18th stage, a 129.76 km mountain ride from Pau to Luz Ardiden in the French Pyrenees.

"It was like 50 of them (police officers). They went through all my stuff and I said yeah I have nothing to hide I don't care," he told reporters.

"They went through all the phones, personal messages... they checked all our belongings, all the buses, all the cars but, of course, they didn't find anything because we have nothing to hide."

His teammate, Italian champion Sonny Colbrelli, said the riders had little time to recuperate after a grueling mountain stage on Wednesday.

"They searched all the rooms, the gendarmes (police officers) were good, just doing their job. They put everything back the way they found it in an orderly fashion," he said. "We're good, a bit nervous because these aren't great things for cycling because these are the last days of the Tour, yesterday was a hard stage and we could not sleep until 2:30-3:00, and then this morning we were up again early."

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report