Athletes from the Spanish national team have backed the anti-doping probe that has implicated world steeplechase champion Marta Dominguez, in a joint statement released through their federation RFEA.
Spain has been shocked by the news that Dominguez, perhaps the country’s best-known athlete, had her house searched and was questioned by the civil guard under suspicion of trafficking and distributing banned substances on Thursday.
“We are completely behind the judicial process that has started, and we think it is the correct path towards the eradication of doping in Spanish sport,” read a statement on the REFA Web site (www.rfea.es) that was signed by 61 athletes. “The cheats have enjoyed an exasperating impunity from the rest of the sportspeople who saw themselves condemned to compete in inferior conditions.”
Dominguez’s arrest comes two months after Tour de France cycling winner Alberto Contador tested positive for a banned substance and was suspended, in a year when Rafael Nadal returned to be tennis world No. 1 and the soccer team won the World Cup.
Spanish Secretary of State for Sports Jaime Lissavetzky said the investigation, in which 14 people were taken in for questioning, should not tarnish the country’s recent sporting successes.
“Ninety-nine percent of Spain’s greatest successes in sport are not stained by doping in this ‘Golden Era,’” he told reporters. “The vast majority of sportspeople are clean. Spain is in the vanguard of the fight against doping.”
Earlier on Friday, the RFEA provisionally suspended Dominguez from her prestigious post as a vice-president of the body.
“Given the events of yesterday relating to an alleged doping scheme in which you were implicated ... I have decided to provisionally suspend your term as vice-president of the Royal Spanish Athletics Federation,” RFEA president Jose Maria Odriozola wrote in a letter to Dominguez, made public by the body.
Luis Alberto Marco, the European indoor champion at 800m, was quoted in the media as saying: “It’s a black day for Spanish athletics. It’s sickening; I’m repulsed by my sport when things like this come out.”
“On the other hand, I don’t think my sport is to blame. [The blame is with] the people who are dirtying and robbing and staining those that fight for a clean sport,” Marco added.
One of Spain’s best-known athletes, Fermin Cacho, who won 1,500m gold at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, was quoted as saying: “I am frozen to stone. I cannot believe it.”
Authorities said on Thursday police had raided 15 properties in an operation called Greyhound, discovering large quantities of anabolic steroids, bags of blood, hormones, EPO and laboratory equipment used for carrying out blood transfusions.
Among those held were people implicated in the 2006 Operation Puerto anti-doping probe, which rocked the world of cycling.