A new TV ad for watchmakers Festina features former French professional, Richard Virenque. Their description of the campaign is “A true passion for sport”, the new campaign shows a more stylish and human touch together with the watches.”
The company sponsored a cycling team from 1989 through to 2001, under the names Festina and Lotus, and Virenque rode for the team from 1993 to 1998. He was one of the members of the team who was involved in what became known as The Festina Affair.
The Festina Affair became one of the biggest scandals ever in cycling when their team soigneur Willy Voet was caught by France-Belgium border officials with large quantities of doping products in his Festina team car when travelling to the 1998 Tour de France start in Dublin.
An investigation took place into the use of PEDs by the team, and many of the riders did admit to taking drugs. However, Richard Virenque did not confess, releasing a book called Ma Vérité where he denied using doping products. He would finally admit to doping a few years later.
Despite no longer sponsoring a team, Festina continued in professional cycling by being the official timekeeper at the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia, the Vuelta a España and several other stage-races.
It seems that with Festina using Virenque in their advertisement, the company don’t feel any shame about their link with the doping scandal, and their use of arguably the highest profile cyclist implicated in the affair.