Manolo Saíz, the controversial Spanish team manager caught up in the Operación Puerto doping scandal of 2006, is plotting his return to the elite pro ranks. According to a report in the Spanish daily ABC, Sáiz is shopping around sponsorship proposals to international Spanish companies with the hopes of mounting a return with a major, elite-level Spanish team for 2012.
“It’s true, I want to come back,” Saíz told ABC. “And I believe I am going to pull it off.”
Saíz, 51, was never formally charged in the Puerto scandal that sunk his Liberty Seguros team during the 2006 season. Saíz was arrested May 23, 2006, in Madrid after meeting with alleged ringleader Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes. His holding company, Active Sport, was stripped of its ProTour license and Saíz left the sport in humiliation.
Spanish courts, however, never pressed formal charges against Saíz, who insists he did nothing illegal.
After the Kazakhs stepped in to salvage the team under the Astana name, Saíz kept his distance from cycling. He’s since opened a restaurant his hometown of Torrelavega and bought into a partnership that owns and operates the luxurious Palacios de los Hornillos, which was used as the backdrop for the Nicole Kidman movie “The Others.”
This season, Saíz has already formed an amateur squad called La Cueva el Soploa with riders born between 1989-1991 from Saíz’s region of Cantabria that could lay the groundwork for a comeback.
“I want to start with a small infrastructure, with young cyclists, without looking back,” Sáiz said. “I do not fear what anyone will say. I never have. I can look all my colleagues in the eye. The judge has confirmed it three times.”
Saíz says his side of the Puerto story has not been told, but says he cannot speak about it until pending legal action is formally closed.