COURTRAI (Belgium): Belgian police have seized banned doping products in raids yesterday at homes of riders and trainers of the Quick Step cycling team, the public prosecutor's office here said.
According to first indications, banned products were seized, spokesman Tom Janssen told AFP.
Around 40 federal police officers took part in these raids, which occurred in Flanders (in the north) and Wallonia (in the south).
According to Janssen, the probe into Quick Step began last September following claims by Belgian politician Jean-Marie Dedecker that he had the names of three Belgian cyclists who went to Italy for illegal doping treatments.
The Quick Step team was at the centre of doping allegations earlier this year when newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws claimed that a doping culture was allowed to flourish because the team had a mole at the International Cycling Union (UCI) who tipped them off when tests were due to be carried out.
The newspaper published a series of articles accusing Quick Step team manager Patrick Lefevere of complicity in doping at his team, citing blood-boosting drug EPO and cocaine as the drugs in circulation.
The paper published its accusations through several annonymous sources.
Quick Step, which employs 2005 world champion and one-day specialist Tom Boonen, as well as Olympic and reigning world champion Paolo Bettini, had been plunged into controversy when ex-rider Johan Museeuw, a former world champion, admitted that he had doped in his career.
The Belgian team denied the allegations, and Lefevere is claiming US$27mil in damages from Het Laatste Nieuws.
Yesterday Lefevere was still in the dark over the house raids.
I'm en route for Paris. I don't know anything about this business. I can't really say anything, Lefevere said, quoted by the Belga news agency.
The team's sporting director, Wilfried Peeters, added that he had heard news of the raids on the radio.
I think we can be calm about the outcome of this affair. It's undoubtedly the result of what has been written in a newspaper, Peeters told Belga. AFP