Joaquim Gomes recalled, on the sidelines of the presentation of the 83rd Volta a Portugal, in Lisbon, that the “blue and white” team “is not suspended”, despite the fact that eight of its 11 cyclists have been preventively suspended by the Anti-Doping Authority of Portugal.
The director of the Volta a Portugal, Joaquim Gomes, considered this Friday “fundamental for Portuguese cycling” the presence of the W52-FC Porto in the 83rd edition of the competition, stressing that the team is not suspended.
“As an organizer, it was essential for Portuguese cycling that the team could be in the competition”, he defended, before adding: “Obviously, everything that happened is very bad for the sport”.
Joaquim Gomes recalled, on the sidelines of the presentation of the 83rd Volta a Portugal, in Lisbon, that the “blue and white” team “is not suspended”, despite the fact that eight of its 11 cyclists have been preventively suspended by the Anti-Doping Authority of Portugal ( ADoP) within the scope of the “Clean Proof” operation.
“The FC Porto team is one of the great historics of the Volta and, in no way, its abandonment of the Volta in a confrontational way would be good for cycling. But, in reality, the team is not suspended, I know that those responsible are to do everything in its power to find solutions so that the team can stay in the Tour, obviously without the riders and technicians who are suspended”, he noted.
The director of the Volta a Portugal, whose 83rd edition will be on the road between August 4th and 15th and which has the “dragons” among the 19 teams registered, highlighted that, “from a regulatory point of view”, the W52-FC Porto “is authorized to hire some riders and find conditions to participate”, since “the minimum number of cyclists” for the team to line up is five.
“My opinion is that it would be important to find solutions – and they will be very difficult – so that the W52-Porto can be in the Volta a Portugal”, he reinforced, defending that the “dragons” were “the most important team of the Volta in the last years old”.
According to Gomes, “at this moment [os responsáveis da W52-FC Porto] are against the clock to find solutions”, the main one being “hiring foreign riders who eventually leave their teams”.
“It is a sliver of opportunity that you will have to take advantage of, otherwise we will definitely have to announce that W52-FC Porto will not come to this Tour”, he replied, referring to the reopening of registrations in the cycling panorama on August 1st.
The president of the Portuguese Cycling Federation (FPC) regretted “immensely” that the case around the W52-FC Porto happens “on top of the Volta a Portugal and the peak of cycling that we are experiencing at this time”.
“This moment is extraordinarily complex and there is no doubt that it is a critical, delicate moment, which requires us to be very careful, but which concerns us essentially because of the damage it causes to the sport and also to the Volta a Portugal”, defended Delmino Pereira, estimating that “there are no good solutions here, not even the ideal solution”.
The president of the FPC stressed that the body he presides over does not have the “authority” to suspend the team, this decision being up to “the authorities that have disciplinary authority over cycling and doping”.
“We received information from the ADoP of the eight runners who are preventively suspended, information that we communicated to all the organizers and the International Cycling Union and which led us to suspend the athletes’ licenses. These athletes, to this day, will not be able to go around Portugal”, he added.
Eight cyclists and two members of the W52-FC Porto staff were preventively suspended last Friday by the ADoP within the scope of the “Clean Proof” operation.
The runners, as well as the members of the “staff”, are preventively suspended for 120 days, a period that can be extended “given the complexity of the process”.
On Saturday, the identity of six of these cyclists was known when they were prevented from lining up in the third stage of the Grand Prix Douro Internacional, which was eventually won by José Neves, the only representative of the team that continued in the race.
Ricardo Vilela and José Gonçalves were removed, in addition to four former winners of the Volta a Portugal: João Rodrigues (2019), Rui Vinhas (2016), Ricardo Mestre (2011) and Joni Brandão, who “inherited” the victory in the 2018 edition after of the disqualification, for doping, of the also “dragon” Raúl Alarcón.
In addition to the cyclists who lined up in the Douro International GP, the W52-FC Porto also counts in its ranks with Amaro Antunes, three-time winner and two-time champion of the Volta title (2021, 2020 and 2017), Samuel Caldeira, Daniel Mestre and Jorge Magalhães.
At the end of April, 10 W52-FC Porto runners were accused and the team’s sports director, Nuno Ribeiro, was even arrested, as well as his deputy, José Rodrigues, during the “Clean Test” operation, in charge of the Department of Investigation and Criminal Action (DIAP) of Porto.
“The police operation, involving a total of about 120 elements from the Northern Directorate and also from the Central and Southern Directorates, from the National Anti-Corruption Unit and from the Criminal Investigation Departments of Braga, Vila Real and Guarda, had still with the collaboration of ADoP”, detailed the PJ, on April 24.
The W52 structure, linked to FC Porto for six seasons, has won the last nine editions of the Volta a Portugal, but the triumphs of its Spanish rider Raúl Alarcón, in 2017 and 2018, were also taken away for “use of methods and/or prohibited substances”.