Thu, Jan 31, 2013 - Page 18 News List

Fuentes says not only bikers used doping services

AP, MADRID

The doctor at the center of Spain’s long-awaited Operation Puerto trial on Tuesday testified that athletes from sports other than just cycling used his blood-doping services.

Eufemiano Fuentes said the vast majority of those who approached him were cyclists, but others also came to him. He did not give any names.

“There were sports people of all sorts,” Fuentes said.

Pressed by Spanish state prosecutor Rosa Calero, Fuentes added: “They could have been a cyclist from a given team, a footballer from a squad, a tennis player, I don’t know, a boxer. There was an athlete.”

The doctor said he was approached to perform medical checks and help prepare training and diet regimens.

“I did physical and medical tests to guarantee their health was not harmed by the rigors of competition,” Fuentes said.

Fuentes said this involved blood doping, with red blood cells extracted from a person and later reinjected to boost stamina and performance.

The doctor insisted the transfusions never took place during competitive races, except when a rider retired and needed an instant boost of red cells to avoid immediate health risks. Fuentes said the majority of transfusions took place in what he called a medical center in downtown Madrid.

However, he conceded under cross-examination that some took place in nearby hotel rooms, when sporting competitors asked for greater privacy and discretion.

Calero and Lucia Pedreno, a lawyer representing the Spanish state, spent more than four hours cross-examining Fuentes about the high-tech centrifuges and refrigeration equipment he used, as well as the notes he took to keep track of the hundreds of blood bags.

Fuentes said that sometimes he used chilled soft drinks cans to keep blood bags cool when he transported them over short distances in insulated carrying containers.

During the trial, Fuentes declined to answer a number of questions, including ones about how he disposed of unwanted blood bags and some referring to privacy agreements between himself and his clients.

Also on Tuesday, presiding Judge Julia Santamaria agreed with all the parties that US cyclist Tyler Hamilton would be called to testify as a witness. Hamilton has been outspoken in revealing details of doping in the sport.

Hamilton was a former teammate of Lance Armstrong. His tell-all interview on US television show 60 Minutes in 2011, combined with his testimony and a book he wrote last year, played a key part in Armstrong’s downfall.

After being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from the sport for life, Armstrong has admitted that he doped.

Santamaria said she would consider written applications from the prosecution and plaintiffs about what to do with the scores of blood bags seized by police, but they would not used as evidence in the Puerto case.

She said the trial would not make a distinction between medical drugs used for doping purposes and blood products used for the same reason.

The trial would only focus on whether the defendants posed a risk to public health in the services they offered sports men and women.

Thirty-five witnesses are expected to testify in a trial due to last until March 22.

Although no riders are on trial, many will be called to testify as witnesses, including two-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador, who was stripped of a third Tour title after testing positive for clenbuterol.

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