During his second day on the stand at the Puerto trial in Madrid, Dr Eufemiano Fuentes once again asserted that he only provided blood transfusions for athletes for health reasons. One of five defendants facing a charge of crimes against public health, Fuentes also went on the attack in an attempt to discredit some of those who have made accusations about his involvement in doping practices, including doping whistleblower Jesús Manzano.
Fuentes claimed that former Kelme rider Manzano had approached him for treatment during his racing career. “He used to take cocaine and that’s very dangerous in high-level competition. I got that information both from him and his mother, who called to tell me. Cocaine consumption can lead to serious cardiovascular damage, and for that reason I didn’t include him among my patients,” said Fuentes. Manzano’s lawyer made an immediate complaint to the judge about these comments and asked for the right to launch a suit against Fuentes.
Fuentes, who now operates as a gynaecologist in the Canary Islands, had previously revealed that an ex-pro who works for a government body that is backing the case against Fuentes had been one of his clients. The ex-rider in question is former Kelme pro Javier José “Pipe” Gómez, who is president of the Spanish riders’ association (ACP) and director-general of the Foundation for Youth Sport, which is part of Spain’s Superior Council for Sport (CSD). Fuentes said that Gómez had never objected to his methods.
Later in the day, the CSD revealed that Gómez had offered his resignation to the CSD’s president “in order to facilitate his defence and to avoid damaging the foundation”.
Asked to provide more details about hotels where he carried out transfusions for some of his clients, Fuentes stated, “a hotel room fulfills the minimum requirements laid out by the law with regard to blood transfusions.” He added, “Transfusions are also carried out in schools, in halls… They are done wherever possible. The law only demands that the locations are hygienic.”
This is a key part of the defence being presented by Fuentes and his fellow defendants, who are determined to show that the health of the athletes they were treating was never compromised. Fuentes also affirmed “we never added any product to blood, except for preservatives”.
Dr Yolanda Fuentes, sister of Eufemiano, took the stand for the first time. She denied she had any knowledge of her brother’s activities relating to blood transfusions, although they did treat the same riders on occasions, including Colombian Santiago Botero. She said she only learned about his activities through the media.
Asked by her lawyer about the effects of the case on her, Yolanda said it damaged her business and impacted severely on her family. “The media pressure did a lot of psychological damage to my children and affected me physically. Journalists are also semi-culpable in the death of my father,” she declared.
Like Yolanda Fuentes, former Kelme and Comunitat Valenciana sporting director José Ignacio Labarta denied having any involvement in blood transfusions carried out by Eufemiano Fuentes and haematologist José Luis Merino Batres, against whom charges have been dropped for health reasons. He did admit to being the person referred to as “Macario” in Fuentes’ papers, but refused to answer when the lawyer representing the UCI asked him why the figure 50,000 had been written next to that name.
Following a request from the lawyer representing the Italian Olympic Committee, the judge once again refused to demand that Fuentes reveal the identities of those athletes whose coded names were on 200 bags of blood and plasma that were seized back in 2006. She did say that Fuentes could reveal them if he so wished.
On Thursday, former ONCE and Liberty Seguros team boss Manolo Saiz and former Kelme and Comunitat Valenciana boss Vicente Belda will give evidence for the first time.
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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