Representatives of Festina, the watch maker which sponsors the Festina road team, said today at the doping trial in France that riders ingesting illegal substances damaged the reputations of sponsors.

Doping damages commercial reputations, says Festina

The UCI, sponsors ONCE and Festina and the Societe de Tour de France today demanded symbolic damages from a French court, arguing their reputations had been unfairly tarnished by the Festina doping scandal.

Though not all directly involved the case, the various groups exercised their rights as ‘civil parties’ under French law to give evidence in court over actions which they believe have affected their activities.

Their lawyers told the court in Lille their clients deserved sympathy, and demanded a symbolic franc in damages over the Festina doping scandal, which broke on the 1998 Tour de France.

Ambroise Arnaud, for Festina, said the company had been actively involved in the fight against doping since 1998, saying their name had been associated with drug-taking but they had decided to fight it rather than quit the sport.

In fact, it could be argued that Festinas name was now better known than ever. Sales of Festina watches are said to have risen signifcantly since the scandal broke so clearly theres no such thing as bad news.

The 10 accused in the trial, including French superstar Richard Virenque, face up to two years in prison and hefty fines if found guilty of conspiracy to provide drugs to three teams in the 1998 Tour de France.

The trial, which started on October 23, has seen several leading riders admit to doping.

The UCI and the French cycling federation argued today that they had taken action against doping, although UCI lawyer Philippe Verbiest conceded that perhaps more could have been done.

Riders Brochard and Herve, who gave evidence that they had used drugs, are also claiming damages, arguing that nothing had been done to alert riders to the dangers of doping. (Er, you mean theyve never heard of Tom Simpson?)

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