More than three years after he was implicated in the Operation Puerto doping investigation by Italian newspaper Il Giornale, Oscar Pereiro has finally been cleared of any link to those involved in that affair. The paper had suggested that the 2006 Tour de France winner was the person known as “Urco” in the papers kept by Eufemiano Fuentes, the doctor at the centre of the Puerto investigation.
However, evidence collected in the ongoing Operation Galgo case that also involves Fuentes indicates that “Urco” is the nickname given to Spanish middle-distance runner Marta Domínguez. Indeed, Spanish newspaper El Mundo has reported that Domínguez’s mobile phone number was written down next to “Urco” in the original Puerto documents.
Contacted by La Voz de Galicia for his reaction to the news, Pereiro joked: “Ah! So I am not Urco after all? What a disappointment.” Now attempting to get a career as a footballer off the ground after retiring from cycling at the end of last season, Pereiro added that “this revelation is the proof that on many occasions people talk just for the sake of talking, that they spread rumours that are without any foundation”.
Pereiro revealed that a team-mate first made him aware of rumours circulating about his alleged link to the Puerto investigation. He ignored the rumours initially, but in May 2007 he took legal action against Il Giornale when it reported that the Spaniard had a dog called Urco, and that the name had been used as a code name for Pereiro by those involved in the Puerto case.
Speaking at the time, Pereiro affirmed: “I’ve never spoken with Eufemiano Fuentes, I don’t know him at all and I don’t know why they are linking me with him. I’ve never met him in my life.” He also said he was ready to provide DNA evidence to clear his name.
“I decided to sue. I presented the dog’s registration document with his real name on it,” Pereiro told La Voz de Galicia. “The case is still open. There were some negotiations to see if we could reach an agreement… but I said no, that I had nothing to lose. In addition, it also showed an enormous lack of respect to my dog, whose name they changed.”
There was also a theory that Pereiro had been given the name Urco because it is a figure in the mythology of his Galician homeland in north-west Spain. Galician folklore has it that Urco is a huge dog that comes from the sea bringing bad tidings.
Pereiro believes that the rumours brought him bad tidings in May 2007 when he had still not been officially declared the winner of the 2006 Tour. “I know that all this worked against me when they were set to recognise me as the winner of the Tour de France after Floyd Landis’ positive test,” Pereiro insisted.
“Just after the 2007 Dauphiné Libéré, Caisse d’Epargne applied pressure for me to be recognised as the official winner of the race. But the Tour organisation were afraid of another doping scandal, and for that reason when the London time trial that opened that year’s race took place I wasn’t wearing the yellow jersey nor did I have number one on my back.”
Pereiro also explained that it was clear almost from the start that athletes from other sports were involved in the Puerto affair. “It wasn’t an unfounded rumour. In the images that the TV news stations showed of Fuentes’s papers you could read the words: European Championship. Everyone knows that there are no European Championships in cycling. It was proof that other sports were involved.”