What appeared to be a well-run, tightly organized and clean Vuelta a España has descended down the all-too familiar path of adjusting the final standings following some high-profile doping cases.
Vuelta organizer Javier Guillén said his hope has turned to dismay following a string of damaging doping accusations leveled at Vuelta runner-up Ezequiel Mosquera and Xacobeo-Galicia teammate David García.
“Our hopes didn’t last 15 days,” Guillén told the Spanish daily MARCA. “We’re not dead yet, quite the opposite, we’re going to keep fighting with an iron hand against doping, even though it’s obvious that these cases really cause us some damage.”
Spanish cycling has come under fire following a devastating string of doping allegations leveled against some of its top stars.
Alberto Contador is against the ropes after testing positive for clenbuterol, which he claims came from eating tainted Spanish beef. Working-man hero Mosquera is also claiming he is innocent of doping charges.
Three-time world mountain bike champion Marga Fullana also tested positive for EPO, but she quickly admitted she took the stuff and has vowed never to race again.
Five other Spanish riders are also under the microscope for suspicious recent anti-doping controls.
Things are so bad in Spain that UCI president Pat McQuaid recently said officials need to do more to crack down on alleged doping, something Spanish officials say they’re already doing.
All this is bad news for the Vuelta, which has tried to put the shadow of Operación Puerto and the 2005 disqualification of Roberto Heras in the rear-view mirror. Guillén said no sponsors have pulled out, but he’s worried about the long-term impacts of Spain’s doping legacy.
“We had a problem and we were fighting against and we thought we were regaining credibility,” he continued. “We thought we were on a good way, but it’s obvious that we have to keep fighting.”
Guillén said the Vuelta spent 300,000 euros to underwrite anti-doping controls during the recent Vuelta and said the race also pays for the expenses of three medical inspectors that follow the race.
“I don’t know what else we could do, but if someone has an idea, please tell us,” he said. “But I don’t believe it’s a problem just of Spanish cycling or the Vuelta, but cycling in general. The message we want to send it clear: we will continue to fight against doping.”