MADRID (VN) — Two of Spain’s perennial runner-ups — Joséba Beloki and Isidro Nozal — testified on Tuesday that they never doped during their careers.
Both gave testimony Tuesday in the third week of the Operación Puerto trial, marking a step back into denial mode a day after Ivan Basso and Jorg Jaksche both admitted they worked with Puerto ringleader Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes.
Beloki, along with former Liberty Seguros teammates Unai Osa and David Etxeberria, each denied having a relationship with Fuentes.
Only Nozal, who was second in the 2003 Vuelta a España, admitted that he worked with Fuentes. Nozal was sidelined with high hematocrit in 2005 and tested positive for CERA-EPO in 2009. On Tuesday he said he only worked briefly with Fuentes in 2005.
“He took some blood extractions, but I never had them re-injected,” Nozal said. “I never paid Fuentes. We never talked about money. He reached out to me and said he wanted to help me prepare. I only worked with him a few months.”
Nozal, 35, said he only received “vitamins and amino acids” during his sessions with Fuentes. During his video-conference testimony, he came across as the perfect gregario, doing as his directors and doctors told him without questioning anything.
“I didn’t pay attention to what they did with the blood. I never asked the doctors anything. They’re professionals and I trusted in them,” Nozal said. “I was a worker [for the team] and I had to get results.”
Nozal said he fell into depression when he popped for high hematocrit ahead of the 2005 Criterium du Dauphiné. When asked how he tested positive for CERA in 2009 during the Volta Portugal with Karpin-Galicia, he replied: “I have no idea. You’d have to ask the team doctor at the time.”
Nozal denied a request by a lawyer representing the Spanish cycling federation to have his DNA cross-checked with blood bags being held in storage by Spanish authorities.
Beloki, meanwhile, denied any relationship with Fuentes.
Despite questioning from the judge about documents that seemed to indicate his name in Fuentes’ codebook, the three-time Tour de France podium man said he never worked with the Spanish doctor.
Beloki, who retired in 2007 after being linked via the media to Fuentes, categorically denied ever having contact with the doctor.
“My name was published in the media without proof. I asked the [Spanish cycling federation] to open an investigation to help me prove it, but they ignored me,” Beloki said. “I have always been scrupulous during my career and I have a clean file.”
A bitter Beloki said he wanted to retire with honor from cycling, but instead was drawn into scandal. A heavy crash in the 2003 Tour that saw him break his femur, an injury that has left him with a limp. “I am held together by screws,” he said.
Unai Osa, who was identified by Fuentes as one of his clients, countered that he never worked with Fuentes at all. That was echoed by David Etxebarria, a retired sprinter and classics rider.
Things should be more interesting Wednesday, when former Kelme rider Jesús Manzano is scheduled to testify.
Manzano collapsed during the 2003 Tour de France and was airlifted to a local hospital. At the time, doctors said he was suffering from severe dehydration. Instead, Manzano said it was a botched injection of oxyglobin.
In 2004, after being sacked by Kelme, Manzano conducted a series of tell-all interviews with the Spanish daily AS about doping within the peloton. He later helped tip off Spanish authorities to Fuentes ahead of the Operación Puerto arrests in May 2006.
During testimony in the opening week of the Puerto trial, ex-Kelme boss Vicente Belda slammed Manzano, saying he was unprofessional, unstable and addicted to cocaine.