Following a major anti-doping operation focused on Portuguese Continental team W52-FC Porto, 10 of the squad’s riders have reportedly been caught in possession of banned drugs.
One hundred twenty agents were involved in operation ‘Prova Limpa’ or ‘Clean Test’ as two people were arrested and officers searched houses across Portugal, during which every squad member’s home was searched, and doping substances were allegedly found in most of them.
All riders on the squad have now undergone drug tests, and the results are pending. There is some confusion about how many riders have been found in possession of banned substances, with some reports saying all 10 of the squad members were caught red-handed. The UCI website shows 14 riders enlisted in the team.
Sports director, and former rider for the team, Nuno Ribeiro was arrested along with his assistant José Rodrigues. The pair have been suspended from performing their duties on suspicion of doping athletes and have also been prohibited from contacting anyone on the team.
For the team’s manager, Adriano Quintanilha, it’s still a case of innocent until proven guilty. He gathered the squad at a hotel on Thursday to restart training after they skipped the final day of the Grande Premio O Jogo stage race following the anti-doping raids. Local media reports seven of the 10 riders implicated were competing in the race.
“I take the riders at their word,” he told A BOLA. “They say they are clean and the blood and urine tests will be negative. If prohibited substances are found in their homes or hotel rooms, they must be held accountable. But I trust them and that’s why I wanted to bring them together,” Quintanilha explained. Then I’m only talking about the riders. I will not comment on Nuno Ribeiro and José Rodrigues, because I only know what is in the media.” The team boss then explained he is currently looking for a replacement sports director.
“The situation is not easy, but we have to face the problems and solve them,” he continued. “If cyclists claim to be innocent, we have to get back to normality and put things right. The team is not suspended by the federation or the UCI and we can compete, as long as the situation of the sporting director is sorted, which will happen in the short term. The return to training together will also serve to bring normality to W52-FC Porto.”