Fabian Cancellara has denied that he was a client of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, refuting speculation that he was the individual listed as "Luigi" in files seized by Spanish police in 2006 as part of the Operacion Puerto blood doping investigation.
The recent online innuendo concerning Cancellara stemmed from an interview that Tyler Hamilton gave to Cyclingnews on Wednesday, in which he recalled a clash at the 2008 Tour of California between the Rock Racing Team and a rider known as "Luigi" in the Puerto files. Hamilton did not divulge the rider's identity, but speculation quickly spread on social media that he may have been referring to Cancellara.
Speaking to reporters before the final stage of the Tour of Qatar, Cancellara said that he was bemused by the matter and refuted the allegation. "We don't know from where the connection is coming. I mean, I remember in 2008 I already said everything there is to say, and now a few years later something gets turned on. I don't know if it comes from Hamilton or not, and it looks like everyone is believing what Hamilton is saying."
Hamilton and his Rock Racing teammates Santiago Botero and Oscar Sevilla had been barred from participating in the 2008 Tour of Calfornia but rode ahead of the caravan during the race. In his Cyclingnews interview, Hamilton recalled how a prominent rider had been vocal in his opposition to their actions, and he said a group of his Rock Racing teammates had subsequently heckled the rider, calling him "Luigi," his purported Puerto codename.
On Friday, Cancellara said that while he had voiced his disapproval of Hamilton, Botero and Sevilla's actions, he had not been subjected to intimidation by Rock Racing riders during the race.
"No. I had not even heard about this Luigi stuff," Cancellara said. "What I remember is that when there was Rock Racing, there was Sevilla, Hamilton and Botero and for the whole world, it was pretty crazy. I was against it because you ride your ass off and you still have open cases or cases that are going on, and I remember those situations. But it's 2013 now and that was 2008."
In his 2012 autobiography, The Secret Race, Hamilton admitted to blood doping under the supervision of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes on Bjarne Riis’ recommendation while riding for the CSC squad. He was also coached by Dr. Luigi Cecchini during his time at CSC, before leaving the team to join Phonak in 2004. Cancellara arrived at CSC in 2006 and said that, like Hamilton, he was coached by Dr. Luigi Cecchini while at the team, but he insisted that the relationship “was all about training performance and not doping performance.”
Asked if the speculation of the last 48 hours had affected him, Cancellara shrugged as he pinned on his dossard for the final stage of the Tour of Qatar. "I have to stay unaffected," he said. "[In some way] it affects me but just because it makes me angry that something like that came out. That's what affects me more than the rest. I have more to do tomorrow than just seeing news about this Clasicomano Luigi. There are so many names. It's [similar] with Alberto, they say 'ah, AC is Alberto Contador' and I mean in the end, it's definitely not my problem."
Earlier in the week, Cancellara had expressed his desire that cycling "turn the page" rather than confront the recent past, and on Friday he described the current climate of allegation and confession as "a weird world."
"Hamilton even makes money now with his book," Cancellara said. "The most important thing is that everyone has to clean the shit in front of his house first and then he can talk about other things."
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation, published by Gill Books.