Bahrain Victorious confirmed that the team’s riders and staff had had their homes searched by police before starting the 2022 Tour de France. It’s a throwback to some of the sport’s murkier past, particularly 2006 when Operacion Puerto meant that two of the race’s favourites, Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich, couldn’t start the Tour de France that year.
The response of Bahrain Victorious was to say that it felt the searches were “aimed at intentionally damaging the team’s reputation.” The team had previously been searched by French Police during last year’s Tour de France as part of a doping investigation. At the time, it was suspected that the team were potentially breaching laws about acquisition, transport, possession, import of a substance or method prohibited for use by an athlete without medical justification. This was according to the preliminary case notes by a Marseille prosecutor.
Boxes of the muscle relaxant Tizanidine were found in that raid and a medical lab was asked to create a test. According to a subsequent medical journal, which says it tested samples from a team at the 2021 Tour de France and believed to be Bahrain Victorious, Tizanidine was found in samples taken. Bahrain Victorious dismissed these findings. Tizanidine is a non-prohibited drug, so the team officially has done nothing wrong if they had been using the drug. The use of it for off-label effects, presumably to aid rider recovery post-race, is very much in an ethical grey area, however.
The team’s leaders for this year’s Tour de France are Australia Jack Haig and Italian Damiano Caruso. They will hope to get off to a good start in Copenhagen on Friday. The rest of the Bahrain Victorious Tour de France team includes 2021 stage winners Matej Mohorič and Dylan Teuns, plus Jan Tratnik, Fred Wright, Kamil Gradek and veteran Luis Leon Sanchez.