By Susan Westemeyer
A Hamburg, Germany, court has ordered testimony to be taken from Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes in a lawsuit between Jan Ullrich and German anti-doping crusader Werner Franke. "This is a breakthrough," Franke told the dpa press agency. "Until now we weren't able to get to Fuentes."
Franke was challenging an injunction which prevents him from claiming that Ullrich paid Fuentes 35,000 Euros. Apparently Fuentes would not be called to court in Germany but could be questioned in Spain, a process which could take several months.
"Ullrich's attorneys protested vehemently against the introduction of such evidence, but this defense strategy was not successful," noted Franke's attorney, Michael Lehner, to the sid agency. "Now Ullrich's hopes that he might win in the long run will disappear."
Lehner was optimistic that Fuentes would cooperate with the questioning. "I can't imagine that Mr. Fuentes would try to hide something or even make a false statement. This case does not deal with him, and a false statement would be punishable." The attorney further hoped that Ullrich himself would be willing to make a statement. "It would be good if he put an end to this sad drama, before he gets buried by the evidence."
Franke and Lehner also wanted Ullrich mentor Rudy Pevenage, confessed Fuentes customer Jörg Jaksche, and former Team Telekom soigneur Jef d'Hont called to give evidence, but that was not ordered. "I think that the court wants Fuentes first, because if he says he received money from Ullrich, then they won't need the other witnesses."
Ullrich's attorney Marcus Hotze, on the other hand, called the ruling "a real slap in the face for Professor Franke. We have always said that Mr. Franke's claim was false and that remains so."
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'
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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
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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