Former ONCE and Liberty Seguros manager Manolo Saiz is set to take up a position as sporting manager of the Baqué-Campos team, which is seeking Continental status in 2015, but the Spaniard has claimed that he already had an opportunity to return to the sport at a higher level with Katusha four years ago.
Saiz has not managed a professional team since the Operacion Puerto doping affair of 2006, when he was arrested following a meeting with the blood doping doctor Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes in Madrid. Although Saiz was eventually cleared of damaging public health in the trial held last year, the investigation revealed damning details of the doping system in operation on his team. Jorg Jaksche, for instance, confirmed that it was Saiz who had put him in contact with Fuentes during his time at Liberty Seguros.
Speaking to Basque newspaper Deia, Saiz demurred when asked if his role at Baqué-Campos – currently an under-23 team – constituted a comeback.
“Return is not the right word. Firstly, because I’ve never stopped helping out in the amateur field through the years. And secondly, because for me a comeback would meaning returning the professional cycling,” Saiz said, before claiming that he was close to joining Katusha four years ago.
“This is not the return that I want. For example, four years ago I was on the point of becoming general manager of Katusha and that would really have been an ostentatious return. I know now that my detractors will say that I’m just returning with an amateur team and magnifying the whole thing.”
Saiz admitted that his decision to accept the role at Baqué-Campos was born primarily out of economic necessity. “I was the lowest-paid directeur sportif in Spain because I wanted that and adhered to that,” he said. “But it’s now nine years that I’ve had no income coming in and I have to admit that the shops and restaurant that I have here in Torrelavega have not gone well.”
The 54-year-old acknowledged that his return will not be welcomed by many but appeared to issue a warning of his own when asked if he feared any backlash. “I know there’s going to be, but I also know that I have weapons and documents I can use to defend myself, which nobody forgets.”