DOHA (VN) — Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) denied alleged links to Eufemiano Fuentes, the doctor at the center of Operación Puerto, on Friday. On Thursday, rumors spread after a Tyler Hamilton interview that he was “Luigi” in Fuentes’ list of code names.
“No,” Cancellara said when asked if he ever visited Fuentes.
Cancellara spoke to a small group of journalists as he pinned on his number before stage 6 of the Tour of Qatar on Friday. He explained that it is better not to go into the details and make bigger stories when asked if he would say to the critics, “I’m clean.”
“To go into the details will make bigger stories, because then there’s more and more and it starts the avalanche. It affects me, it affects the team, it affects the sponsors,” said Cancellara. “I heard from Tim [Vanderjeugd] our press officer yesterday. He said, ‘Hey, it’s just a weird world now.'”
The world of cycling is busy cleaning house. Since 1998, the Festina Affair, Operación Puerto, Armstrong and other doping cases and accusations have filled the headlines.
In May 2011, Tyler Hamilton publicly admitted to doping and helped the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in its investigation that finally proved Armstrong guilty of years of doping.
Hamilton has spoken out about doping since, including giving an interview this week to Cyclingnews.com. In that interview, he recalled a story from the 2008 Amgen Tour of California, where his Rock Racing teammates intimidated a rider for making comments about them and their links to Puerto. They called him “Luigi,” his alleged Fuentes code name.
Cancellara criticized Hamilton and his teammates ahead of that Amgen Tour. Overnight, the online world erupted with allegations, linking Cancellara to “Luigi” and to Fuentes.
“No. No,” Cancellara said when asked if Hamilton and his Rock Racing teammates intimidated him.
He explained that the incident did not happen.
“It sounds like the people who’ve doped or done something are now saying, ‘we are going against this one. This one never had something,'” said Cancellara. “I see this on Twitter. On the other hand, I don’t care because I know my direction and I stand up for the right things in this sport. That’s why I’m saying that we ware going to have better possibilities. But, when we always do the same, we are not going to go forward.”
Cancellara said that he tries to remain “unaffected,” despite his name being mentioned.
“Somehow it affects me, but just because it makes me angry that something like that came out. That bothers me the most,” said Cancellara. “There’s so many names. It’s like with Alberto [Contador], they say AC is Alberto Contador. [Prosecutors cleared Contador of involvement in the case. –Ed.] In the end, it’s definitely not my problem.”
The Puerto trial started in late January in Madrid. As of now, the judge has blocked Fuentes from naming his clients, who Fuentes said includes athletes from cycling, soccer, tennis, and boxing. The World Anti-Doping Agency is urging Spain to push Fuentes for the names.
Unlike other cyclists who close their doors with a “no comment” to journalists, Cancellara freely gave his time as he prepared for the Qatar stage. He explained that people might connect “Luigi” to him via his former trainer, Luigi Cecchini. Like Michele Ferrari, Cecchini trained under the godfather of EPO doping, Francesco Conconi.
He met Cecchini in his years with team Saxo Bank, but said that the information exchange was about “performance, not doping performance.”