2 Apr 2013

Judgement day looms for Spain’s sport doping scandal

Today is Judgement Day for Spanish sport.  But then again, maybe it won’t be.

Madrid – and its bid to host the 2020 Olympics would rather this wasn’t the case.  Spain wants desperately to clear from its name the embarrassing allegations of doping in elite sport from cycling, to tennis and indeed football.

Likewise the lawyers for Dr Eufemiano Fuentes (pictured below) are trying to clear their client’s name.

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This morning they argued his efforts to manipulate athletes’ blood was legitimate and safe, as his trial for endangering his clients’ health finally drew to a long overdue close

“Do not judge all Spanish sport on the case of one doctor,” Dr Fuentes’ barrister told the court in so many words.  This, he said, was only the case of one medic.

If only it were as simple as that.

Because as the trial ramps down, the anti-doping world ramps up. The head of Spain’s anti-doping agency Ana Munoz – a lawyer who cut her teeth chasing money launderers and narcotics traffickers – told me this morning she’s just hired a special investigator to chase up all the loose ends the Fuentes trial has so frayed and exposed.

Yesterday was the first day in a new specially created role for a seasoned investigator who used to work on Operacion Puerto – the investigation that found steroids, doping paraphernalia and 200 blood bags in Dr Fuentes’ apartment back in 2006.  The investigation that threatens to blow a gaping hole in Spain’s reputation as a nation of sporting giants.

Whisteblower calls time

This much we do know: Dr Fuentes was arrested in 2006 after a whistleblower – a professional cyclist – said the substances the doctor gave him made him sick.

This whistleblower – Jesus Manzano – later gave Channel 4 News the names of two world famous Brazilian footballerswho, he claims, were seen regularly at Dr Fuentes’ clinic. And an unnamed Spanish international.  Who are they? For legal reasons, we can’t yet say.

Dr Fuentes has been finally brought to trial in 2013 not for doping per se – which was not illegal in 2006 – but endangering the health of his clients.

Dr Fuentes confirms to the court he did indeed treat football players – but, he tells reporters outside court, he didn’t help them dope.

Rewind to 2006.

He claims Real Madrid and Barcelona were on his client list – only for the paper who printed the claims to be sued successfully by both clubs. Dr Fuentes testified for Real in the legal action.

Fast forward again to 2013.  During his own trial he tells reporters that Real Madrid still owed him a debt – but doesn’t explain what that “debt” is.

Real Madrid said the money Dr Fuentes referred to was from his participation as a witness on the club’s behalf in a trial against the French newspaper Le Monde.

“Fuentes is asking to be paid for his travel and lodging expenses when he was called to act as a witness, and Madrid has no problem with paying him when he produces the necessary receipts,” the club said.

Real threatened to sue Dr Fuentes for sullying their name

Dr Fuentes then clarifies his statement – he has, he says, never worked for Real. – “I am not nor have I ever been a doctor for Real Madrid, neither directly nor indirectly. I have never given a Madrid player as much as an aspirin.”

National pride

What on earth is going on? Consider this. Channel 4 News understands that Deep inside the Operacion Puerto files may lie the key to this sporting scandal.

A key that was referred to in the United Kingdom parliament by the former head of the English Football Association.

Senior Spanish politicians, it’s alleged, conspired to help Spanish sportsmen across all sports, evade doping tests – and thus help them rise to the very top of the sporting world.

A project aimed at bolstering Spanish national pride.  A project that Dr Eufemiano Fuentes once claimed to be part of, then later retracted that claim.

Further, Dr Fuentes allegedly told a fellow prisoner when he was arrested in 2010 that if he revealed everything he knew about doping in Spanish sport, that the national football team would be stripped of their European and world titles.   Dr Fuentes later denied that he ever said such a thing.

Coming clean

So – is this judgement day, or just another purgatory?

It will take up to six weeks for the judge to publish her verdict.

Meanwhile Ana Munoz and WADA – the Spanish and world anti doping agencies respectively – are urging Dr Fuentes to work with them to get to the bottom of who was – or wasn’t – doping whom.

And, Ms Munoz said this morning, she’s not interested in lip service. Or olive branches that are then swiftly withdrawn.  She wants Dr Fuentes to provide facts. Information. Evidence.

And names. The names of the owners of the near 200 blood bags still in deep storage in a secure location in Madrid.

Watch this space…

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