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Puerto: Hamilton confirms Riis put him in contact with Fuentes

  • By Andrew Hood
  • Published Feb. 19, 2013
  • Updated Apr. 16, 2013 at 2:27 PM EST
Tyler Hamilton testified via videoconference in the Operación Puerto trial on Tuesday. Photo: Andrew Hood | VeloNews.com

MADRID (VN) — Tyler Hamilton testified under oath Tuesday that Bjarne Riis introduced him to Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes ahead of the 2002 racing season.

Lawyers did not press Hamilton on details about Riis, who now managers Alberto Contador’s Saxo-Tinkoff team, but it was the first time under oath that Riis has been linked to Fuentes.

The Dane has contended that he has never met Fuentes, the Spanish doctor at the center of the Operación Puerto doping ring now facing charges of “endangering public health” in a Spanish court.

Hamilton, testifying via videoconference from the Spanish embassy in Washington, D.C., said he worked with Fuentes from 2002 to 2004 after Riis suggested he meet the Spanish doctor.

Hamilton’s gripping testimony provided a glimpse into the doping underbelly of the Fuentes ring.

The ex-pro outlined how he talked with Fuentes on the phone for the first time in January 2002 and met him in March that same year to outline a doping and racing calendar.

“We met in a rest area along the highway in Spain,” he said. “We discussed doping products and a racing calendar. We talked about transfusions.”

Hamilton also said he received EPO, human growth hormones, insulin, and testosterone from Fuentes.

In another blockbuster, Hamilton testified that Alberto Leon, a former mountain biker who had no medical training, at least once conducted a reinfusion during the 2002 Tour de France.

Leon was a helper for Fuentes, who testified that Leon never helped in the transfusions, only with chores around the office. Leon committed suicide following another doping scandal involving Fuentes in 2011.

Under questioning from World Anti-Doping Agency attorneys, Hamilton also testified about how he reacted negatively to a blood transfusion during the 2004 Tour de France, saying he felt feverish and ill.

“The worst reaction was during the 2004 Tour de France. It was a reinfusion, as far as I could tell; the blood had been destroyed, it had not been properly handled,” he said. “The reason I knew that, because when I went to the bathroom 30 to 45 minutes later, my urine was black.”

Hamilton said he paid out of his own pocket for Fuentes’ services, about “25 to 30 thousand euros,” in 2002 and 2003, which he said jumped to 50,000 euros he joined other riders in helping pay for what he called, “this special freezer, which we called ‘Siberia.’”

Earlier in the day, Fernando Gutierrez Ortega, head of the Spanish Center of Sports Medicine said he did not agree with Fuentes’ defense that the transfusions were to keep his patients’ hematocrit levels stable.

“The transfusion of a bag of blood, for me, does not have a medicinal purpose. It is designed to increase the training load and physical performance, not to cure an athlete,” he said. “An athlete that detects a low hematocrit level should, for me, be instructed to rest and treated with licit means such as iron and folic acid, not with a transfusion which, by definition, carries risks.”

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Andrew Hood

Andrew Hood

Andrew Hood cut his journalistic teeth at Colorado dailies before the web boom opened the door to European cycling in the mid-1990s. Hood has covered every Tour de France since 1996 and has been VeloNews' European correspondent since 2002.

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