Doping crackdown in international cycling

Law enforcement and judicial authorities in France, Belgium, Spain, Croatia, Italy, Poland and Slovenia have carried out a coordinated action against the use of prohibited substances in cycling races. Based on a request from the French authorities, the Danish Police have also carried out searches at one of the Tour de France hotels in Copenhagen. The international activity was coordinated by Europol and Eurojust. 

The investigation was led by the French OCLAESP under the supervision of the French Public Prosecutor’s Office in Marseille to look into possible doping allegations of a cycling team participating in the Tour de France.  

Between 27 and 30 June, a total of 14 locations were searched in 6 countries. Three people were interrogated. The investigation is ongoing and the evidence seized is being forensically examined. 

The properties of several riders and their staff were searched in Belgium, Spain, Croatia, Italy, Poland and Slovenia. 

An urgent coordination meeting was hosted by Eurojust on 16 June to facilitate judicial cooperation, including the execution of seven European Investigation Orders in the countries involved, and the preparation of the joint action.

Europol deployed a dozen officers across the participating countries to facilitate the extensive exchange of information and provide forensic support for the seized electronic devices.  

The following authorities are involved in the investigation: 

•    France: PPO PSPE (Public Health and Environment Division) of Marseille and OCLAESP (Central Office against Environmental and Public Health Crime)
•    Belgium: Federal Prosecutor’s Office and the Federal Judicial Police of Brussels
•    Denmark: Copenhagen Police
•    Spain: Investigative Court num. 8 in Alicante; International Cooperation Section of the Prosecutor’s Office in Alicante; Judicial Police Unit of Policía Nacional in Alicante
•    Croatia: County State Attorney’s Office in Rijeka
•    Italy: PPO Brescia and Carabinieri for the Protection of Public Health (NAS) Units of Brescia, Roma and Ragusa
•    Poland: The Circuit Prosecutor’s Office and City Police in Łódź
•    Slovenia: District Court and Slovenian Police

Europol and the fight against doping

The illegal production and distribution of doping substances brings significant illicit profit to organised crime groups. They often use these profits to fuel other criminal activities, such as producing and trafficking illegal and substandard medicines and synthetic drugs. 

Doping substances not only corrupt fair competitions they also endanger the health of athletes as criminals often produce illegal doping substances in underground labs with no hygiene requirements while using dangerous and substandard raw materials. These illicit doping substances poison players in all sports: from track athletes, professional cyclists, skiers and weightlifters to amateur bodybuilders.

Several investigations supported by Europol have uncovered the use of doping substances to influence the outcome of professional sports. The Europol-coordinated SHIELD II operation ran last year between April and December 2021 in 26 countries led to 544 arrests and €63 million of fake pharmaceutical and illegal doping substances seized.