More than two months after French searched Nairo Quintana’s hotel room during the Tour de France, his Arkéa-Samsic team manager Emmanuel Hubert says he still has no further information on the inquiry.
Investigators from the Central Office for the Fight against Threats to Environmental and Public Health (OCLAESP) searched Quintana and his brother Dayer’s room in a hotel near Méribel after stage 17, along with the room of Winner Anacona and the team’s soigneurs and the Arkéa-Samsic team cars.
A team doctor and soigneur were taken into preliminary custody after the search found “many health products including drugs (…) and especially a method that could be qualified as doping.”
In an interview with Ouest France, Hubert, when asked about the status of the investigation, said he doesn’t know any more than he did in September. “The only thing I can see is that everyone is free, and everyone has the right to practice their profession.”
According to reports, “100ml of saline and injection equipment” were found in the raid. Under the UCI’s “No Needle” policy, injections of any kind are prohibited “without a clear and recognised medical indication” and must be reported to the UCI within 24 hours.
Nairo Quintana said the authorities seized only legal vitamin supplements and no doping substances were found, and insisted he has “been a clean cyclist throughout my sporting life.”
Hubert admits the raid “was not pleasant to live with” and that “it has been a bad time. I want this bad time to be over.”
Even the Quintana brothers don’t understand what the investigation is about – they were interviewed and released, “they were not even in police custody,” Hubert said. The authorities have not given access to any part of the dossier.
“Either there is something, and okay, or it’s closed. I ask that justice be done, one way or the other … But unfortunately, I believe that preliminary inquiries can sometimes last for months,” Hubert said.
“I believe more than ever in the presumption of innocence. Now I have a team, staff, and all this must continue, that’s clear. I have people to work on, so sporting life has to move forward.”
Hubert said that Quintana will be on the team in 2021 unless something is proven, adding, “I think if he was going to be been indicted, he already would have been.”
He defended bringing in Quintana’s doctor to replace the team’s usual physician, Jean-Jacques Menuet, who was out with COVID-19, saying Christian Buard helped Nairo Quintana with his rehabilitation after his crash in July.
Hubert said that so far his team’s sponsors are still behind him and he is operating as usual, but the team turned down a chance to grab a WorldTour licence with the folding of CCC Team, and their roster will shrink in 2021.
“[We] received offers to buy back licences, but it’s not our thing to operate like that. If we go [to the WorldTour], it will be through sporting progression only.”
The revival of NTT as Qhubeka Assos has complicated next season for the Pro Continental squads, Hubert said.
“If they are in the WorldTour, the WorldTour will be at 19 teams again, and only one Pro Continental team [Alpecin-Fenix] will qualify for the Grand Tours as the best Pro Continental team of 2020. On the other hand, if NTT is not WorldTour, there would only be 18 WorldTour teams, and then two Pro Continental teams could then automatically go to all the Grand Tours, Alpecin-Fenix and us. Our team has the size to at least participate in two Grand Tours next year.”
If there are 19 WorldTeams in 2021, Arkéa-Samsic could find themselves in tough competition with Total Direct Energie and B & B Hôtels-Vital Concept for the two wildcard spots in the Tour de France.
“I’m confident. But honestly, I hope there won’t be a three-way game. I think all the contending teams deserve to be at the start. We must each find our place.”
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