Portuguese domestic cycling is in a disastrous state.
‘Return of the Volta a Portugal today against the ghost of doping’ ran the headline in Portuguese newspaper Diario de Noticias, and this particular developing story is probably good enough for Hollywood let alone black and white print.
Failing that, cycling’s unique connection to professional football in Portugal brings yet another strange undercurrent to the whole story.
People on the ground in Lisbon say that as the 83rd edition of the race sets off from the capital city it does so under a heavy atmosphere. Four riders supposed to be on the start line are not, the result of the anti-doping ‘Operation Clean Test’, which has also seen the winners of the past nine Voltas, W52-FC Porto, suspended from competition.
The four absentees from the race come from three of the other top domestic Portuguese teams: Luis Mendonça of Glassdrive-Q8-Anicolor, João Benta and Francisco Campos of Efapel and Daniel Freitas who rides for Rádio Popular-Paredes-Boavista.
Mendonça was withdrawn by Glassdrive as the team wanted to “protect their image,” Campos had his contract terminated by his team despite protesting his innocence while Benta also claimed nothing untoward had been uncovered from his residence in the raids that involved 120 officers searching dozens of properties and ending in two arrests as well as “several substances and clinical instruments [being] seized, used in the training of athletes and with an impact on their sporting performance.”
Campos and Freitas have both previously rode for W52-FC Porto, the team at the centre […]