Follow the money

Friday, 22 April 2011

La Polizia

Faster than Ferrari?

If it’s been hard to nail riders and their “doctors” for doping because they’ve often been one step ahead of the testers, constantly refining techniques to avoid detection, one area where people might slip up is the money. Shady riders, teams and doctors might be good at cycling or doping but they are probably so pro when it comes to money laundering. In this instance, it’s quite possible that experienced investigators have a substantial edge on those involved.


Doping is big business, a box of EPO vials doesn’t come cheap for a healthcare service, when it has to be prescribed illegally the cost goes up, middlemen get involved. There have been cases of organised crime getting on on the act, of clandestine laboratories making copycat products in the same way a small textile factor produces fake Lacoste t-shirts. In some cases the banned substances get stolen by an armed crew from a clinic or warehouse, a sign of just how valuable this can be.

Italia trema

il shakedown

It’s often been the case in recent years that cyclists get busted by the police. A majority of the biggest scandals are revealed by the judicial authorities, not the anti-doping controls.

Money has the advantage of leaving traces. Banks keep records for years and years. A sample can deteriorate in a lab over time but records of wire transfers and cash deposits don’t change. This isn’t to say the investigation in Italy will be conclusive but that forensic accountants have caught high level fraud amongst organised criminals and determined professional insiders in the financial system. Busting some riders, maybe a team or two and a doctor could well be child’s play.

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{ 7 comments }

Alex April 22, 2011 at 11:09 am

Plus: tax fraud, money laundering etc are considered more severe crimes in many countries. They are punished harder and under a longer lapse of time. Especially when you realize that doping products are generally legal products is evident that the possibilities of a legal persecution are limited.
IIRC the current investigation against Armstrong focuses on tax money spend on illegal practices, a misdeed punished harder than the doping itself.

Alex Murray April 22, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Illegal importation of controlled substances was the public health crime at the root of Puerto if I’ve read it rightly, and Galgo/Greyhound. It’s also how Terry Newton got caught for HGH and I’d suspect how Sinkewitz was spotted as well.

When it boils down to it, I can’ think of a single big doping bust that hasn’t involved judicial power first and the anti-doping authorities later.

Oliver April 22, 2011 at 1:51 pm

@ Murray in re. the prior involvement of judicial authorities in big doping cases: I wholeheartedly agree. This, and so many other factors, should have made it clear to all of us a long time ago that the UCI is either (1) totally corrupt or at best, (2) incompetent to the point of complacency. But for some reason, the fans, the observers, the journos are all in an extended state of denial…. About the role of the UCI, about the prevalence of doping in pro-cycling…
Pro-cycling doesn’t need a shake-up it needs an earthquake. Let next start with Lance in cuffs thanks to the money trail… It’s bad enough most are doping, this fellow was (is!) such a brazen and self-righteous liar it’s beyond the pale. Next a RICO case on the UCI; it is after all a textbook example of a “racketeer influenced and corrupt organization.” After that, I’ll watch cycling and think that maybe, perhaps and “peut-etre” not all stage-race contenders are doped to the gills….

Wielsucker April 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm

If that crappy drug seizure car wasn’t in the way you’d see a really nicely appointed A4 or Skoda Octavia.

Jennifer April 22, 2011 at 3:28 pm

I’ll take the crappy drug seizure car, thanks very much. Cops here in Virginia driving around in Chargers now. They better hope the criminals only go in straight lines.

Larry T. April 22, 2011 at 6:39 pm

Nice ride! I think the Italian highway patrol use this car on a stretch of highway notorious as a place for rich guys to race their high-powered cars. As I recall it’s down near Napoli or Salerno. Nice job if you can get it, eh?
The Moller book I referred to earlier notes a theft of almost 5 million vials of EPO from a warehouse in Cyprus. He wonders about the reason for this amount of EPO to be in a warehouse in this remote and warm location in the first place, as well as how there seemed to be no local or regional shortage of the drug reported, despite this huge theft. Large, refrigerated trucks must have been used to transport the stolen drugs to airplanes or ships to get it to the distributors for eventual sale. There’s far more organized crime here than what might be going on at the UCI. “Follow the money” is (as always) the best way to figure these things out. I’d bet BigTex and his army of lawyers are doing some serious, “what else do they know?” thinking about now. Will he suddenly announce he’s moving to Monaco, the Cayman Islands, or Switzerland soon?

Jimmyp April 27, 2011 at 7:13 am

Correct me if I’m wrong but I think the crappy drug seizure car is a Lamborghini, not a Prancing Horse.

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