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Fassa Bortolo's Dario Frigo was arrested this morning at his team's hotel in Courchevel following the detention of his wife, Susanne, by French police on Monday evening when what are reported to be doping products were found in her car. According to police reports from Chambry, Frigo's wife was found with 10 doses of the blood-boosting product EPO when stopped on the A43 motorway at Albertville.
Frigo, who was in 52nd place overall after yesterday's stage to Courchevel, was arrested at 7.30 this morning and is reported to be in custody in Chambry, as is his wife. They are both expected to appear before a magistrate in Albertville this afternoon.
His Fassa directeur on the race, Bruno Cenghialta said that this "is an affair that concerns Dario Frigo but not the Fassa Bortolo team. That is what the police have told us."
Tour boss Jean-Marie Leblanc said that "if the accusations of doping are confirmed, Frigo is a recidivist", a reference to Frigo leaving the 2001 Giro and being forced out of the Fassa Bortolo team when doping products were found in his room at the race. He rejoined Fassa in 2003 after winning a stage at the 2002 Tour for the Tacconi team.
"If he is a recidivist that would make him part of that generation that must disappear from the sport as soon as possible and leave it free to young riders who have respect for ethical considerations," said Leblanc.
Leblanc's assistant Christian Prudhomme said that "people who cheat will get kicked out of the Tour, and kicked out with a big kick in the rear".
International Cycling Union president Hein Verbruggen refused to make a comment on the case when contacted by procycling, but did say that "it is good if cheats get caught, whether it's by the UCI or the French police".
The news about Frigo cannot have come at a worse time for Fassa boss Giancarlo Ferretti, who is reported to be in the midst of negotiations with a new sponsor to replace the outgoing Fassa Bortolo at the end of the season. "I've spoken to Ferretti and his reaction is that of any other man in this situation: he is devastated and angry," Cenghialta told the media at this morning's stage start in Courchevel.
Cenghialta added that he did not even know that Frigo's wife was coming to the race. "It's up to him to answer for what he has done," said Cenghialta. "I don't really know him because I've only been on the team for six months, but I didn't have any particular doubts about him."
Asked whether Frigo would be sacked by Fassa, Cenghialta said that "it's up to Ferretti to make that decision. But we don't need an ethical code for someone who is being held by the police."
The incident is similar in many ways to the Rumsas affair in 2002, when the wife of the Tour's third-placed finisher that year, Raimondas Rumsas, was arrested at nearby Chamonix after her car was found to contain a number of doping products. Rumsas has still to return to France since then to answer charges relating to the case.
However, a source close to the investigation insisted there was one crucial difference - "we haven't found as many drugs".
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