MADRID (AFP) — Retired rider Jesus Manzano on Wednesday told a court he was given the blood-booster EPO and other drugs by a doctor accused of masterminding a vast blood-doping network and currently on trial in Madrid. Manzano also detailed the extreme lengths to which the team would go to avoid detection, including using a powdery substance around the urinary meatus prior to providing a urine sample.
“Yes, I was treated by doctor Eufemiano Fuentes,” the 34-year-old told the hearing in Madrid. “I was treated with EPO in 2000, 2001, and 2003 by Eufemiano.”
Fuentes has been charged, along with his sister Yolanda and three other defendants from cycling teams, in connection with a blood doping racket that involved dozens of athletes in cycling and other sports.
The five are accused of endangering public health but not incitement to doping, which was not a crime in Spain at the time of their arrests in 2006.
Manzano alleged that he and other riders from the Kelme team were given drugs when Fuentes was part of the outfit. He also implicated team manager Vicente Belda and trainer Jose Ignacio Labarta in the practice. Both are also in the dock.
“The medical planning was done by Eufemiano. The training by Labarta. They always coordinated with Belda,” he told the court.
Manzano, who made similar accusations in a wide-ranging interview with Spanish sports daily AS in 2004, claims that his health was compromised by the substances given to him during his time with Kelme and recalled one occasion when he fainted during a stage of the Tour de France in 2003.
“I had taken oxyglobin intravenously, a haemoglobin for dogs [which increases oxygen levels in the blood], and Belda and Labarta knew, of course,” Manzano said during his testimony. “I attacked Richard Virenque on a stage and I began to feel progressively worse until I fainted. In the team they asked me to not say what I had taken nor to do a test because it was in France and we would all go to jail.”
Manzano told the court that he had been pressured into taking the substances by the trio.
“In 2001, Belda came to my room saying he would give me ‘a little something to soup up my engine.’ It was EPO. Fuentes and Labarta were there. If you didn’t take it they would expel you from the team,” he said. “I took the medication because it was compulsory in the team. I never did it voluntarily. If I report them here [in Spain], I am sacked. If I did it in France, then all of Kelme would go to jail.”
Manzano also went on to describe the lengths the team went to prevent its riders from testing positive.
“They put a white powder on the penis to deteriorate the urine sample so that we didn’t test positive for EPO,” he said. “For the UCI controls we put in saline solution or human albumin (a protein in blood plasma) and that lowered the hematocrit levels.
“We would put in half a liter and then Belda or someone would give us a square pill to sweat and pee a lot to get rid of this half a liter.”
Fuentes, Labarta and Belda all deny endangering public health.