Frank Vandenbroucke hears the prosecution request a community service sentence as he faces charges oPICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Frank Vandenbroucke is likely to be given a community service sentence following his appearance before a court in Belgian town of Termonde on doping charges on Monday. Charged with the illegal importation and possession of forbidden substances, 30-year-old Vandenbroucke had been facing a jail sentence of more than five years for the alleged offences. The charges stem from a series of events that took place in February 2002. On February 27 that year, the police in Termonde found suspicious products in the car of a French soigneur, Bernard Sainz, who said he had spent the previous night at Vandenbroucke's home. A subsequent police search of the rider's home turned up a number of doping and other products, including EPO, human growth hormone, morphine and amphetamines. The public prosecutor in the case, Philip van Linthout, told Vandenbroucke: "In spite of the very bad signal that you, an elite athlete, has sent out to young people and society, you should not be made an example of. A sentence of community service should be sufficient punishment. Monsieur Vandenbroucke must be punished as a user and not as a dealer." Vandenbroucke's lawyer, Luc Deleu, is hoping to avoid the imposition of even this punishment, declaring that the court should dissolve itself because doping issues within Flanders are the exclusive domain of the Flanders regional disciplinary commission. This body has already banned Vandenbroucke as a result of these offences from September 1 2002 to February 28 2003. "Frank Vandenbroucke is in front of this court simply because he is called Vandenbroucke," said Deleu. "Since 1991 no other high level athlete has ever been pursued through the courts for doping." After declaring that Vandenbroucke had already suffered enough and did not deserve further punishment, Deleu stated: "After being arrested, Frank was intimidated and then led in handcuffs through a media scrum like a hunting prize shown off by his captors." Vandenbroucke has refused to say who supplied him with the products found in his home. "We would really like to have pursued the big fish who are trafficking hormones, but Vandenbroucke preferred to stay quiet on this," said the public prosecutor. A final verdict in the case is due to be given on December 6.