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Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Jeannie Longo's husband accused of buying banned EPO

It's a sad day for cycling and for sport in general when one of France's greatest cyclists is embroiled in a potential doping scandal.

But that's exactly what women's cyclist Jeannie Longo is facing at the moment.

Jeannie Longo (screenshot from BFM TV report)

It all began on Friday when the sports daily L'Équipe reported that Longo faced a possible suspension for having missed a series of random drugs tests by giving the Agence Française de Lutte contre le Dopage (the French Anti-Doping Agency, AFDL) insufficient information as to her wherereabouts.

The 52-year-old is a sporting phenomenon who just a couple of months ago won her 59th national title and whose exploits over a long career have seen her win 13 world championships and four Olympic medals, including Gold in the 1996 Road Race at the Atlanta Games.

Not surprisingly she is widely considered to be one of the greatest women cyclists of all time and in a survey conducted in August by L'Équipe magazine, the weekly supplement to the sports daily, Longo topped the list as France's favourite practising sports personality.

On Saturday though another report appeared in L'Équipe.

This time it involved Longo's husband and trainer Patrice Ciprelli who, the paper revealed, had apparently bought the banned performance enhancing drug EPO back in 2007.

The accusations were based on evidence supplied to the paper Joseph (Joe) Papp, described in the French media as an "obscure and second rate former professional road racing cyclist from the United States."

Indeed Papp is hardly an angel. He served a two-year suspension after testing positive for testosterone in 2006 and after he retired, appeared as a witness in the case against the former Tour de France winner and fellow countryman Floyd Landis.

In an interview with L'Équipe, Papp said he had sold EPO to Ciprelli but had no direct contact with Longo.

"He (Ciprelli) didn't mention her by name but I figured out the drugs were for her," he told the paper.

"In one email he said he wanted EPO for his wife, stressing all the time that he would pay for it himself and he wanted it delivered to a third party."

The paper also published copies of an alleged email exchange between the two men in which Papp appeared as the intermediary for Ciprelli in his ordering and purchasing of EPO from China.

The accusations have been taken seriously by the governing body for cycling in France, Fédération Française de Cyclisme, FFC.

On Tuesday its president, David Lappartient, announced that Ciprelli was being suspended while an investigation was launched.

"The accusations are ones that cannot be taken lightly and I think that for the sake of the French team it's important to relieve Ciprelli of his duties temporarily," he told BFM TV.

"I cannot comment on the accuracy of the so-called evidence and claims, but it seemed logical to me to take this step especially as the team is due to compete in the World Championships next week."

Those World Championships take place in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Longo is due to represent France in the time trials...unless the AFDL decides to open an investigation.


Anonymous said...

I say, Get rid of the cheats, even if they are popular sport personalities! I've always been amazed at how fit Jeannie Longo seemed to be: When I cycle to Bergerac from my house (12kms away) to go to the market, I always arrive panting like an old dog, and I'm younger than her - for sure not as fit. But still, she seemed to be defying the laws of nature!

Debbie, Dordogne

France Today said...

Thanks for your comment Debbie, but perhaps it would be better not to judge Longo too quickly. Yes, she's a remarkable sportswoman and she has managed some incredible feats, but the "affair" came to light through a man whose character leaves grounds for doubt and he didn't directly (dare to) implicate Longo. Copies of emails as proof? Hmmmn. And Longo has the reputation for being heavily into correct nutrition so would she really put her health at risk? We'll wait and see whats comes of the accusations against her husband.

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