30 Apr 2013

Spanish sport’s dirty secret

This is the moment the world’s anti-doping community, as it likes to call itself, had been waiting for. Well – one of them. For nearly a decade Spanish sport has been incubating one hell of a dirty secret. Or at least so the story goes.

Back in 2004 a Spanish cyclist called Jesus Manzano dished the dirt on a doctor he claimed had doped him to the eyeballs with performance-enhancing drugs.

The subsequent police investigation into Dr Eufemiano Fuentes has hinted at, and then shrunk away from, suggestions that he’d doped some of the most famous and successful sports stars on the planet.

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Channel 4 News has been investigating Dr Fuentes for two years and never been able to publish some of the incendiary details we’ve been told along the way.

Today might change everything. Then again – if past form is anything to go by – it might not.

Manzano looked me in the eye when we interviewed him long before Dr Fuentes was summoned to court and swore blind he saw two senior footballers, who played for their national team and a major Spanish club side, attend the doping clinic in question many times. But we can’t name them – yet.

Neither can we yet name the Spanish international Manzano says was also a regular recipient of Dr Fuentes’ medical assistance. The players don’t want to talk about it. And the judge has refused to allow their identities to be revealed in court.

For Fuentes is accused not of doping, but of being a bad doctor. Endangering the health of his patients. And his patients have a right to protect their confidential medical records. Even if they cheated.

And the 200 or so blood bags they recovered in 2006 – which must have owners – will now be destroyed, although the World Anti-Doping Agency is appealing against this ruling and the judge said she would not stop Dr Fuentes from naming who they belonged to.

High-profile footballers – as suspected by many? Fuentes himself has claimed he treated athletes from boxing, track and field, and indeed football.

Or do they just belong to other cyclists – a sport that we know during the last 20 years to have been rotten to its core?

And if we do get the names of the athletes, what about the clubs who employed, or at least cajoled, Dr Fuentes and his nefarious methods?

Ultimately, though, the story ends with the politicians. For Channel 4 News understands there are documents deep within the police files that link senior government officials with attempts to cover up doping at the very highest levels of Spanish sport.

And so to today. Whether Dr Fuentes was sent down really is not the story.

At issue is what happens next. The end of the beginning? Or as Jesus Manzano just told me, the end of the end.

Arriving in court today to see justice be done. Or not. Now there are many who consider Manzano a liar and fantasist. Dr Fuentes, given a one-year suspended sentence, would be one of them.

It must be noted Dr Fuentes was not here. He received his sentence via email.

But Manzano reckoned he knew exactly what would happen. No jail for Fuentes. No answers to all the questions above.

But at least an end. And Manzano for one can then get on with his life.

Follow @nzerem_c4 on Twitter.


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