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Belkin buy Luis Léon Sanchez out of his contract

By:
José Been
Published:
October 09, 2013, 8:54 BST,
Updated:
October 09, 2013, 10:06 BST
Edition:
First Edition Cycling News, Wednesday, October 9, 2013
2012 San Sebastian champion Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank)

2012 San Sebastian champion Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank)

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Linked to too many doping stories, say team

Luis Léon Sanchez and Team Belkin have parted ways after the Dutch team bought the rider out of the final two years of his existing contract. Sanchez had a deal with Belkin for the 2014 and 2015 but according to De Telegraaf the buy-out was made in May of this year.

“His name is reported in too many cases,” a spokesman told the Dutch newspaper.

The 29-year old rider signed with Rabobank in 2011 after four years with Caisse d’Epargne, one year with Astana and two years with Liberty Seguros. He has won four stages in the Tour de France. The victories in 2011 and 2012 saved Belkin - known as Rabobank at the time  - after otherwise bleak performances in the overall classifications.

The 2012 Tour de France stage victory to Foix had prompted Rabobank’s then manager, Harold Knebel, to give Sanchez a new two-year contract. After winning the Clasíca San Sebastian in that same year, Knebel extended that to a three-year deal until 2015. The value of the contract is reportedly 2.4 million Euros.

Knebel only informed the rest of the management after he signed the Spaniard. However, Richard Plugge, the current team manager, sidelined the Spaniard in February 2013 because of his involvement in several doping-related investigations.

In the USADA report of 2012 the name of Luis Léon Sanchez was linked to Dr. Michele Ferrari. In 2007, when he was part of the Caisse d’Epargne team, Sanchez took part in a training camp Dr. Ferrari attended. Sanchez admitted he had worked with Ferrari but claimed no doping was involved.

In 2011 Sanchez’ name was mentioned in the Operacion Galgo investigation in Spain. The former mountain biker Alberto Léon had tried to contact Sanchez for an appointment with Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes several times but because the Spanish Guardia Civil had started their raids an actual meeting with the gynaecologist never took place.

“I deny every contact with Dr. Fuentes or people around him. I don’t know him and never met him,” Sanchez told El Mundo at the time. Rabobank rallied behind its rider stating to Cyclingnews that: “Luis Léon assured us to have never contacted that doctor. We have no reason not to believe him.”

In January of 2013 NRC Handelsblad alleged that Sanchez had been a customer of Dr. Fuentes. His code name on Fuentes’ client list was alleged to be Huerto: client 26.

Team manager Richard Plugge then told Telegraaf. "New data has now emerged. We will therefore certainly confront him," he said. "We already knew that this would come out. Now we know what kind of information it is, we can explain this to him and we can give him time to react."

Blanco team sidelined Sanchez from February to do an internal investigation. In May the team announced it hadn’t found conclusive evidence that Sanchez had connections to Dr. Fuentes.

Sanchez was eligible to ride again in the Tour of Belgium and won the fifth stage. He also won the third stage in Tour de l’Ain and started the Vuelta. He abandoned on the 14th stage. This was his last race for Belkin.

It is unknown whether Luis Léon Sanchez has already found a new team for 2014.

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