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Saiz still hopes for return to professional cycling

By:
Susan Westemeyer
Published:
January 10, 2010, 20:00 GMT,
Updated:
January 10, 2010, 20:00 GMT
Edition:
First Edition Cycling News, Sunday, January 10, 2010

Spaniard bitter about treatment since Operación Puerto

Former-ONCE and Liberty Seguros-Wurth team director Manolo Saiz, speaking to the press for the first time in the four years since his arrest the start of the Operación Puerto doping scandal, said he wants to return to professional cycling.

“It's my world and I must return, it's only natural,” he said in an extensive interview with the Spanish newspaper Diario Vasco.

Saiz was arrested during the Operación Puerto sting operation, having been caught on video visiting with Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes in Madrid. When he was taken into custody, he was in posession of a large amount of money - 60,000 euros - cash he claims was a normal sum for a director heading to a Grand Tour.

"I came out with the same amount of money I went in with, nothing else" Saiz said, explaining that the cash was to give to the team's staff for expenses. "I came out of that coffee shop with nothing unusual, the police reports by the Civil Guard made that very clear."

Three and a half years after his career came to a halt because of the arrest, Saiz said what he finds most difficult to digest is the fact that members of his team still enjoy lucrative careers.

“Through 2009 I could not watch a bike race,” he said. “I couldn't. There were two reasons. The first is that it hurts me to see the lies that live in this sport. The second is that I see the riders who rode in my teams and that it is very, very hard to digest.”

Saiz had been one of the most recognisable cycling team managers of the 1990s and early 2000s, having led riders Laurent Jalabert, Alex Zülle and Abraham Olano to particular success at the Vuelta a España. Since his arrest on suspicion of involvement in doping, he has been out of cycling entirely, a period upon which he reflects bitterly.

“I felt alone. I can say I helped many people [during my management career]. If what happened to me had happened to someone else, I would have defended him,“ he said. “Some people I suppose would like to have called me but have not. In the sport of cycling, they are cowards by nature.”

There was a political component in what happened to him, he claims. “There were people who took advantage of what happened to me. They have names, but I won't name them.”

Saiz won't be writing a book about it, though. “Cycling has given me so much that I could never write anything to harm it.”

Commenting on the sport today, he praised his former rider Carlos Sastre. “I never thought he could win a Tour [de France], but I must say that he was the smartest rider of the past ten years.”

Alberto Contador “is very good physically and mentally.” Saiz said. “But I don't understand why he did not ride another race after winning the yellow jersey in the 2009 Tour." He didn't see how Contador "could he stay away from cycling for eight months.”

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