The 2022 Tour de France will begin on Friday, as so often, under a cloud of suspicion, with one of the 22 teams, Bahrain Victorious, subjected to dawn raids on the eve of the race. It is the second time this week the team have been subjected to police raids.
The raid at 5.30am on Thursday by Danish authorities on the hotel rooms of Bahrain Victorious staff and riders is linked to the ongoing doping investigation launched by French authorities during last year’s Tour.
On that occasion, 50 police officers searched rooms at the team’s hotel in Pau after the finish of stage 17. They seized phones, laptops, and medical products. Two days later, one of the Bahrain Victorious riders, Slovenian Matej Mohoric, won stage 19 and held his finger up to his lips after crossing the line as if to say “zip it”. Mohoric later said he did it out of anger and frustration at being made to feel “like a criminal”.
No charges were brought but the investigation has remained active. Earlier this week Europol made several raids across Europe at the homes of key Bahrain Victorious staff and riders. “We’re sleeping like babies and working like horses,” performance manager Vladimir Miholjević told VeloNews following those raids. “We’re showing everything through our results and we are 100 per cent transparent.”
After Thursday's raid in Copenhagen, the team released a statement: “Following the police search into some staff and riders’ homes on Monday, the Team Bahrain Victorious hotel was searched by Danish Police at the request of the French Prosecutors this morning at 5.30am.
“The officers searched all team vehicles, staff and riders’ rooms. The team fully cooperated with all the officers’ requests, and the search was completed within two hours.
“No items were seized from the team. Following the police search, the team is now looking forward to focusing on the world’s biggest and best cycling race, Tour de France. The team will make no further comment on the subject.”
It is understood that Bahrain Victorious are planning to press ahead with their scheduled press conference at 2.15pm local time on Thursday.
The Tour has tried for years to escape the enormous shadow cast over it by sustained drug abuse in the peloton. This year the race starts for the first time in Denmark, one of the most popular cycling cities in the world. But the only Dane ever to win the Tour, 1996 champion Bjarne Riis, has not been invited after he confessed to using EPO, growth hormone and cortisone during his career.