By Antonio J. Salmerón
Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes was released from prison in Madrid at approximately 20:30 on Saturday evening, after paying bail of €120,000 imposed on him by a Madrid judge. Fuentes is a key figure in a doping investigation "Operacion Puerto" that exploded last Tuesday with the arrests of five people. All five have now been released, pending court appearances: Fuentes, Jose Luis Merino (in charge of a laboratory in Madrid), Alberto Leon (former pro mountain biker), Jose Ignacio Labarta (Comunidad Valenciana assistant director), and Manolo Saiz (manager of the team formerly known as Liberty Seguros).
Fuentes' lawyer, Julian Perez, explained that the family and friends of his client, who is accused of a crime against public health, moved from the Canary Islands to contribute money for his bail sum.
The directeur sportif of Comunidad Valenciana, Vicente Belda, held a press conference in Valencia to discuss the implications of "Operacion Puerto", which has implicated a member of his staff, Ignacio Labarta.
"We respect the law, but we also respect Labarta, and for that reason, we sent a message of support to him." At the same time, Belda admitted that "we have relieved him of his duties until the he explains to the judge what happened."
Belda put Comunidad Valenciana at the disposition of the Spanish Civil Guard, the UCI and the State Sports Council, "so that one thing is verified that we know very clearly: that none of those bags of blood are ours. We are clean of any wrongdoing and that is the reason that I telling all the members of the community and the team that we are very calm and I want to send this message: we are at the disposition of the authorities and have nothing to hide."
Active Bay continues the team
Active Bay, the management company of Manolo Saiz' team, issued a statement today clarifying the team's future. "Liberty Seguros and Active Bay, the managing company of the cycling team of the same name, have reached an agreement today on the terms of the resolution of the sponsorship contract maintained up until now. The agreement includes Liberty Seguros's commitment to assume, when necessary, the financial obligations derived from the contracts with riders."
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'
April 2, 2009 - Valverde indignant over possible suspension
April 1, 2009 - Valverde: Italy requests two-year suspension
March 13, 2009 - Le Monde newspaper hit with fine over Puerto allegations
March 2, 2009 - WADA president Fahey asks for Puerto evidence
February 24, 2009 - Spanish federation seeks access to Puerto blood bags
February 20, 2009 - CONI considers Valverde case while UCI awaits verdict
February 19, 2009 - Valverde under criminal investigation
February 11, 2009 - Valverde summonsed for Operación Puerto in Italy
February 8, 2009 - Eight charged in Operación Puerto