Richard Virenque (born 19 November 1969) is a French cyclist, born in Casablanca, Morocco.
From 1994 to 1998, he was in team Festina. In 1998, team Festina was shattered by a doping scandal (see the doping scandals of the Tour de France) after health assistant Willy Voet was arrested with large quantities of prescription drugs and illegal drugs used for doping. Richard Virenque denied doping himself intentionally, while Willy Woet charged that he was perfectly conscious of what he was doing, and even participated in trafficking between professional cyclists. Virenque claimed that all this had happened, in his own words, "ŕ l'insu de mon plein gré" ("without the knowledge of my own will").
Virenque was highly criticized by editorialists and satirists for his stubborn denial in the face of increasing evidence and his pretense of having been doped without his knowledge. The Les Guignols de l'Info show portrayed him repeating "ŕ l'insu de mon plein gré" (literally, "unbeknownst to my free will"), and this phrase soon passed into French popular culture as a sign of hypocritical denial.
In March 2000, Richard Virenque went on trial with much of the former Festina team in Lille. After initially denying that he had doped himself, he confessed to the charge. After serving a suspension, he eventually returned to the sport, winning his sixth polka dot jersey in 2003.
Though he has never won the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, he has won the polka dot jersey for the best climber a record seven times, winning his seventh in 2004. He has also finished two times on the final podium (3nd in 1996 and 2nd in 1997) and won several stages, among which the legendary climb up to mont Ventoux in 2002.