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Operacion Skype: Rider’s evidence leads to doctor’s arrest

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Overall winner David Garcia Dapena

Overall winner David Garcia Dapena (Image credit: Tour of Turkey)
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Kisses for the stage winner David Garcia Dapena (Xacobeo Galicia)

Kisses for the stage winner David Garcia Dapena (Xacobeo Galicia) (Image credit: AFP)

Spanish police have arrested a Colombian doctor and charged him with doping offences as a result of information given by a Spanish ex-pro, allegedly supplied with a doping product by the doctor in question. Alberto Beltrán Niño, who has worked with a number of professional teams over the past decade, including Selle Italia, Kaiku, LA Liberty Seguros and Xacobeo-Galicia, was arrested on March 8 at Madrid’s Barajas airport as he was about to board a flight to Colombia.

The doctor was subsequently transferred to Barcelona, where the investigation into his activities has been running since September 2010. According to El País, the investigation, dubbed Operación Skype, was set up in the wake of former Xacobeo-Galicia rider David García’s positive test for EPO at the 2010 Vuelta a España.

García, who received a two-year doping ban, decided to cooperate with the authorities and is reported to have provided them with evidence that he bought the product Retacrit (EPO zeta) from Beltrán following the 2010 Vuelta stage into Vilanova i la Geltrú, just to the south of Barcelona.

El País says that, when detained, Beltrán was found to have two new generation doping products in his possession: AICAR and TB-500. Police also seized computers and numerous memory sticks, which have still to be checked. Beltrán is now facing two years in prison for alleged doping offences.

Beltrán has long been a controversial figure within the sport. In April 2001, when he was working as a doctor on the Italo/Colombian Selle Italia team, police stopped his car on the motorway near Modena and found a substantial amount of doping products. Beltrán claimed they were for private clients. Fired by Selle Italia, he later worked for the Spanish Cafés Baqué and Kaiku teams.

He was also the team doctor at the Portuguese LA Liberty Seguros outfit when three of their riders tested positive for EPO CERA after the 2009 Tour of Portugal, including race winner Nuno Ribeiro. Some months later, Ribeiro made an allegation in the Portuguese press that Beltrán had supplied him with the banned product.

Before Ribeiro’s allegations had become public knowledge, Beltrán had taken on a new role with Xacobeo-Galicia. That September, in the midst of the Vuelta, Xacobeo team director Alvaro Pino appointed him to replace team’s previous incumbent, Manuel Rodríguez Bastida, who later said he had been sacked for no reason and described himself as “a victim for not permitting doping practices”.

As a result of the information he had provided, García has had his doping ban reduced from two years to 18 months. He now runs a bike hire business in the Canary Islands.

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).