Former world champion Santiago Botero’s possible relationship with Eufemiano Fuentes as a client came under scrutiny once more in Wednesday’s segment of the ongoing Operacion Puerto trial in Madrid, when tapes were played of phone taps dating from May 17, 2006 - just days before Fuentes was arrested.
Botero, who won the world time trial championship in 2002 as well as stages of the Tour de France, Paris-Nice, Vuelta a España and Dauphiné Libéré, was cleared on any activity by his federation’s Disciplinary Commission, who argued that any potential evidence provided against him by Spain’s Civil Guard was not validated by the correct judicial authority.
One of those potential pieces of evidence is a phone conversation between Botero and Fuentes concerning “marker pens,” a term associated with EPO.
Making cryptic references to the Biblical character Samson (the codename with which Botero is possibly identified) and to “haircuts” - believed to be blood transfusions - Fuentes told Botero: “When you paint the countryside with marker pens it’s very difficult to go well in the mountains, you are making up for Samson’s hair loss, given he’s had five or six haircuts.”
Botero had met Fuentes when racing for Kelme, where Fuentes had been a doctor. At the time of the conversations, the Colombian was racing in the Volta a Catalunya for Phonak, and he also received medical advice from Fuentes on when to take an unnamed product so it would produce the maximum effect.
Botero also asked Eufemiano Fuentes if his sister Yolanda - also facing charges against public health offences after working as the Kelme team doctor from January 2004, and who has told the court she has no idea of her brother’s work - could provide him with another product.