A major anti-doping operation in Portugal involving 120 agents has reportedly resulted in two arrests and house searches leading to the seizure of substances and clinical instruments.
The case appears to concern the Portuguese UCI Continental outfit W52-FC Porto, which failed to make the start for the third stage of the four-day Grande Premio O Jogo on Sunday. Their sports director Nuno Ribeiro is reported to be one of two people arrested, according to local media.
According to the report, police searches were carried out at dozens of addresses across Portugal, targeting various managers, athletes and facilities, and culminated in the seizure of several substances and clinical instruments “used during the athletes’ training and influencing their sports performances”.
“I just know that they didn’t line up,” W52-FC Porto boss Adriano Quintanilha told the Portuguese Record newspaper of his team’s absence from the start line, adding that he hasn’t managed to speak to anyone from his team “because it seems they don’t have cell phones”.
“The only thing I can say is that, in the morning, the sporting director of W52-FC Porto, Nuno Ribeiro, informed me that the team would not race, giving me no justification for it,” O Jogo organizer Paulo Couto added.
“The name of Nuno Ribeiro [having been arrested] was heard on television, but I don’t know anything. I continue to trust the sports director until proven otherwise,” Quintanilha continued, adding the future of the team could now be in question.
“It depends on the course of events. I repeat that I don’t know anything. If the situation develops into a serious situation, we will meet with FC Porto and we will discuss the future of the project”.
“From what they said, they’ve searched the homes of all the cyclists, from the Algarve to the north, and the hotel, starting at 7 am”.
The anti-doping operation, named ‘Clean Test’, set out with the aim to detect “prohibited methods and illicit substances that can falsify the sporting truth in professional cycling races”. The two arrested individuals will be brought before the authorities for questioning and the investigation will continue. At the time of writing, W52-FC Porto have not issued a statement on the matter.
UCI President David Lappartient recently said it was a “positive” that 2021 marked the first season since the beginning of the WorldTour that doping authorities had not caught a single anti-doping violation.
“I want to see this as something positive, that we don’t have positive cases but what I want to say is that we still remain awake about what can happen,” Lappartient told VeloNews. Last season was the first with the International Testing Agency (ITA) in charge of overseeing anti-doping measures, with UCI figures showing testing had gone up in 2021 compared to the lockdown-ravaged 2020. “Today, to make a lot of tests is something necessary but it’s not enough to certify the results. That’s why we’re working very closely with the ITA.”
On Tuesday April 26, it was announced that the Portuguese UCI Continental outfit, Radio Popular-Paredes-Boavista, have been suspended by the UCI Anti-Doping Tribunal.
The team will not be allowed to race between April 29 and May 18 due to two abnormal biological passport cases within 12 months. These two cases relate to the four-year suspensions handed to Domingos Gonçalves and David Rodrigues, who were both found to have irregularities between 2018-2019.