By Antonio J. Salmerón
To some, the name Manolo Saiz conjures up vivid images of cycling's biggest doping investigation, Operación Puerto, but to others it conjures up years of successful management of the Spanish teams ONCE and Liberty Seguros. After a long history of leading riders such as Laurent Jalabert, Abraham Olano and Miguel Indurain, Saiz' career hit a major snag when he was arrested along with Eufemiano Fuentes and two others after a police raided Fuentes' Madrid clinic and came up with hundreds of bags of blood, doping products and performance enhancing drugs.
But despite the scandal Saiz still plans to find his way back into the sport. Speaking publicly for the first time since his arrest in May, 2006, Saiz vowed to return. "I'm taking a break and dedicating myself to my (hotel) businesses," he told Cyclingnews, "but one day I will return to cycling and will do it with the same enthusiasm as before."
His case is still in appeal, so Saiz couldn't comment on the case, preferring to stay silent and let the lawyers sort it out. "I have said to my lawyers that, at the moment, I just feel like being with my family and with my closest friends, and leaves in their hands all judicial matters; I do not want to know anything more, unless something new happens. My lawyers will not allow me to talk, but when I do, many of those who walk around so happy will be silenced," Saiz said ominously.
He did object to the way the riders were treated during Operación Puerto. "In cycling, all is seen in a bad light. If people knew the suffering that a cyclist has to endure, the riders wouldn't be treated in such a way," Saiz said. "With cyclists, no one respects their constitutional rights."
Saiz assured that despite being out of the sport, he has been following his protégés from the Liberty and Astana team closely. "I am very satisfied with Alberto Contador - the winner of the 2007 Tour, Luis Leon Sanchez -third in the Paris-Nice, José Joaquin Rojas, Carlos Barredo, José Antonio Redondo ... because they are also my friends.
"They are the 80 percent of the immediate future of Spanish cycling. They are also a great example that we were working correctly with them, but there are always those who will say otherwise." The 48 year-old did not want to comment on the issues facing the riders caught up in the scandal along with him, "because now they are not under my supervision, and therefore it is not for me to make assessments."