Back in the 1980s, Eufemiano Fuentes received a PhD cum laude on the effects on the human body of high performance sports. At the time he said that he was convinced that without sufficient recovery time, high performance sports caused severe damage to a human organism. Judging by his first interview after the Operacion Puerto trial has ended, he is still convinced of that.
Speaking to Spanish sports newspaper MARCA, Fuentes refused, for legal reasons, to discuss details of the Puerto trial. But he was far more expansive about why he had allegedly established his Madrid laboratory, the use of his codes as a way of confusing the press -whom he was convinced were tapping his phone calls, and the degree of involvement of certain top figures in sport.
Asked if he would deny that his activities constituted doping, Fuentes replied: “Doping? We are talking about activities that took place before Spain’s anti-doping law existed. It’s possible there was sports doping, but I would call it therapeutic doping, to avoid greater evils.”
Rather than any financial reason, and there was certainly no indication that any of his clients were treated for free (Tyler Hamilton said in his declaration he was paying nearly 50,00 euros a year), Fuentes claimed his motivation was essentially altruistic.
“You could use a doping substance for a worse end and it could have undesirable consequences...[but] I looked after my athletes’ health. I wanted to protect them from the immense danger that they were exposed to by the levels of training they did and by the intensity of their racing calendar.”
However, since 2006 Fuentes’ idealism has, by his own admission, failed to find an outlet. Since his arrest during Operacion Puerto, Fuentes claimed he had had no relationship whatsoever with the world of sport, barring some work with one low-level Canary Islands football club, the Universidad de las Palmas.
"I did my work well"
Asked why he used codes to hide his clients’ names, Fuentes said he was convinced that the press, rather than the police, were on his trail.
In the 2001 Vuelta a España, Fuentes had his phone tapped and the conversation published in the press, revealing, amongst other things, that he was a doctor for both Oscar Sevilla, leading the race at the time, and Angel Luis Casero, who eventually won it outright.
Fuentes faces up to two and a half years in jail, as well as a ban from working as a doctor. Asked if he had thought about collaborating with the authorities in a bid to get a lighter possible sentence he told MARCA: “You collaborate when you have done something wrong, but I don’t feel I’m guilty of anything. I have the sensation I did my work well.”
Although he said he would refuse to reveal the names of his clients because of professional ethics, unless told to by a judge, Fuentes was more than happy to underline those who did not use his services.
Former Kelme professional Pipe Gomez, who quit as youth director of Spain’s Sports Council (CSD) when his name emerged during the Puerto trial was one such rider “whom I treated for injuries and little problems, but nothing more,” Fuentes said.
He also confirmed to MARCA there are many innocent figures who had been embroiled in the case.
“I said it in that program [a radio program in 2006], I gave a couple of examples, I gave names: Alberto Contador and [former Spanish pro] Vicente Ballester. That’s on tape and I confirm it again today.”
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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