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Swiss suspend French star cyclist

Richard Virenque has been banned for nine months.

(Keystone / AP Photo)

The Swiss Cycling Federation has suspended for nine months the star French cyclist, Richard Virenque, after he admitted taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Announcing the decision on Friday, the Federation's director, Walter Leibundgut, said Virenque would have his Swiss cycling licence taken away for nine months, and would be fined SFr4,000 ($2,445).

The ruling follows Virenque's confession last October that he had knowingly taken performance-enhancing drugs before the 1998 Tour de France.

Virenque was acquitted by a court in the French town of Lille last week on charges of supplying banned performance-enhancing drugs to members of his Festina team before the 1998 race.

The International Cycling Union asked the Swiss Cycling Federation in early December to take action against Virenque because he has a home near Geneva and holds a Swiss professional licence.

The ban comes into effect in February - the effective start of the racing season - and means that Virenque will miss all the main races of the season, including the Tour de France.

Virenque said last week that a ban could end his star-studded career. He is currently without a team, having just completed two seasons with Italy's Polti.

The Lille court convicted Festina's former trainer and the former team physiotherapist, as well as six other defendants, for using and administering the banned substances.

swissinfo with agencies

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