With career under a shadow, Longo set to retire
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Sunday, February 12, 2012

With career under a shadow, Longo set to retire

by Shane Stokes at 8:05 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Husband/coach faces charges relating to importation of doping substances

Jeannie LongoFollowing the arrest of her husband and coach Patrice Ciprelli on Wednesday and his charging two days later, Jeannie Longo appears set to retire from cycling.

Bruno Ravaz, a lawyer representing both her and Ciprelli, told RMC radio that he believed she has taken the decision to stop.

“I think Jeannie Longo understands that her sports career has ended,” he said. “She wants to focus on her private life and will try to cope in a very dignified and human way. What counts is her private life, and her career is far from those concerns.”

Longo has competed for over three decades and has clocked up well over 1,000 victories. These include three editions of the women’s Tour de France, gold and silver medals in Olympic Road race plus silver and bronze in Olympic time trial.

She also took nine road world championship titles (five in the road race, four in the TT), four track world championship titles (pursuit and points races), as well as three silvers and three bronze medals. Her palmares includes multiple French titles, including eleven gold medals in the time trial.

However she has been under suspicion since last September, when it emerged that she had committed three whereabouts violations. A possible suspension was avoided when it became clear that the French anti-doping agency AFLD had not observed a new law, requiring athletes to be told each year that they are part of the testing pool, yet questions remained.

Former US pro and self-confessed dealer of doping products Joe Papp said that Ciprelli was one of his clients, and had told him that the EPO was intended for his wife.

Latest developments spell the end of a career:

On Friday Ciprelli was charged with the importation of the banned substance EPO. According to a source who spoke to AFP, he is said to have spent 15,000 euros on 15 purchases of EPO since 2007.

He was arrested on Wednesday and initial reports said that prosecutors believed that he had bought at least two purchases of EPO in 2010 and three last year. They recovered two invoices totalling approximately 500 euros in relation to the 2011 purchases, identifying the substance as Eprex, a brand of EPO. Ciprelli was implicated via his bank account.

The last of these purchases dates to May 2011, weeks before Longo took yet another French time trial championship.

Ciprelli initially claimed to be innocent, saying that his email and credit cards had been compromised and that he had intended to purchase dietary supplements only.

He soon cracked and admitted buying EPO, but claimed it was for his use only. He told investigators that he was trying to recover from a number of cycling accidents. However while he was in custody police reportedly searched his bag, found documents and pinpointed a password which enabled them to view an online account and uncover more details of purchases.

According to a source who spoke to AFP, the orders were placed with a Turkish pharmacy through companies based in Mauritius, and totalled approximately 15,000 euro.

This amount was disputed by his lawyer Pierre Albert, who claimed some of the orders were cancelled and that the amount purchased was far less. He sdaid that he had made between three and five orders, with a total cost of between 1,500 and 2,500 euro.

Ciprelli has now been charged and is not able to leave France without permission. He has also been blocked from meeting several people, including French cross-country team director Michel Lucatelli. The latter is a personal friend of Ciprelli and Longo, and was the person to whom the EPO deliveries were made.

As for Longo, she faces an uphill battle to clear her name and salvage her reputation. The news of her likely retirement puts an end to her ambition of competing in the London Olympics, where she would have been the oldest cyclist.

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