Top sports stars ‘seen at Spanish doping clinic’
Jesus Manzano used to be a professional cyclist. He collapsed during the 2003 Tour De France after a botched doping attempt involving banned performance enhancing drugs that had been developed for animal use.
Manzano decided to turn whistleblower – and his evidence led to Operacion Puerto.
Raids in 2006 discovered hundreds of blood bags from athletes across elite Spanish sport. Cycling. Football. Boxing. And tennis.
It’s taken seven years, but the doctor accused of masterminding this vast drugs programme – is now on trial in Madrid. Not, however, for doping. Dr Eufemiano Fuentes – is being tried for endangering the health of his patients.
Jesus Manzano gave evidence today, and described how Fuentes would routinely take serious risks. And brazenly flout the drugs testers.
He told the court how drugs would be transported inside Dr Fuente’s medical car. He would arrive in his brightly coloured Porsche at a hotel, where a special room was set aside for him to administer transfusions, EPO and the like.
But it’s what Manzano didn’t tell the court today that anti-doping officials are keeping a keen eye on.
He told Channel 4 News he saw a Spanish footballer who has played for the national team attend Fuentes clinic. And two famous Brazilian players – not just once, but four or five times.
Manzano said “there were two regular ones who went to the clinic, they came out and went in more than once”. He described to Channel 4 News how he saw them several times between 2001 and 2002.
At the start of the trial, Fuentes offered to give the court his full patient list. But the judge said no – because it would breach their privacy. And don’t forget, it’s not the athletes, but Dr Fuentes who is being brought to book for an alleged criminal offence.
Concerns have mounted that the full extent of Fuente’s doping programme – and exactly who knew about what was happening in his clinics – would never be made public.
Manzano however insists the police knew full well who was coming and going – because he told them. And he claims they told him they were under pressure to drop the investigation.
In another development, a key witness who has criticised Fuentes in the past was meant to testify today too. But he died yesterday of a heart attack.
Questions have long been raised about senior people in Spanish political life who may to some degree have been in cahoots with Dr Fuentes’ doping programme. Channel 4 News has been told crucial files may have been lost, and government officials may be to blame.
However the anti-doping community believes Spain’s new government is more keen than it’s predecessor to reveal the wrongs of the past. Particularly with Madrid bidding to host the 2020 Olympics.
Dave Howman, the Director General of the World Anti Doping Agency, is optimistic that recent political change in the country has brought about what he describes as “a sea change” in attitude. And that maybe at the end of Fuentes’ trial they will be granted some, or even full access to the Operacion Puerto investigation files.
Although first they have to persuade the judge. The same judge who refused to let Fuentes reveal his client list to the court.
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