If by this stage in the Operacion Puerto trial few people could doubt Eufemiano Fuentes ability as a doctor and administrator of all kinds of medicines, Friday's segment of the trial shed light on a previously hidden talent of the Canary Islands gynecologist: translating.
According to Liberty Seguros pro Marcos Serrano, who took to the witness stand on Friday, Fuentes was the doctor he chose to get his wife to call when he fell ill from what he claimed was a viral infection during the 2006 Giro. As the race moved on, Serrano was left convalescing in an Italian hospital in Tortona, and he told the court he asked his wife, in Spain, to text Fuentes, who he knew spoke Italian, to ask him to translate what the doctors were telling him - which Serrano, who did not speak the language, could not understand.
The message, on May 23, asking Fuentes "to comment something to do with Marcos" went to voice mail - where it was promptly picked up by the Civil Guard police force, who had just arrested the doctor as part of the Puerto anti-doping probe. Serrano finally checked himself out of the Italian hospital before spending a longer period in hospital in Vigo, Spain for further treatment.
Serrano told the court that he knew Fuentes from his period as a rider in Kelme, from 1994-1998, when Fuentes had extracted his blood, but only small amounts and for analytical purposes. He denied ever having had Fuentes as a doctor during his time with ONCE and Liberty, contradicting Manolo Saiz, his former director who is on trial alongside Fuentes, who claimed Serrano had been treated by Fuentes during that period.
Asked to identify his initials on a training plan and race plan allegedly drawn up by Saiz, Serrano said that after identifying RH as Roberto Heras, IG as Igor Gonzalez [de Galdeano] and AV as Angel Vicioso, ‘MS' was not him, but another former Liberty rider, Michele Scarponi. He also said that he would be willing ‘in principle' to hand over a sample of his DNA - which could then, should the judge finally permit it, be tested against the blood bags held in Barcelona - "but depending to whom and for what purpose."
Angel Vicioso, now racing with Katusha, was the other rider who declared on Friday - and said without any reservations that he would be willing to hand over his DNA if need be.
Vicioso, the only rider called to declare in Puerto who is still racing, said that he had had Fuentes as his team doctor at Kelme from 1999-2002 and then he occasionally consulted him about a knee injury after that period. Asked by the UCI's lawyer if Fuentes was a traumatologist, Vicioso said "he was a good doctor" and he thought he would get "a solution."
Vicioso denied that Fuentes had never extracted his blood or that he paid him any money during the 2004-2005 seasons, that he "did it [gave consultations] for free." He did admit paying former Kelme trainer Ignacio Labarta, like Vicioso from the region of Aragon, 5,000 euros a year to act as his trainer up until two years ago.
If Fuentes has been generous with riders with poorly knees, according to newspaper MARCA on Friday, it has emerged that the Canary Islands-born medic is not so forgiving about debts he considers should be paid. MARCA reported that Fuentes is owned 600,000 euros by the Comunitat Valenciana region for services rendered as medic of the Kelme-Comunitat Valenciana team.
Although the period from which the debts are actually outstanding is unclear, two court sentences have declared in Fuentes favour in 2009, but he has not yet received any money. As a result, Fuentes has successfully had embargo orders placed on Kelme's two team buses - one of which was originally bought from a scrap yard - several dozen bikes and some team tools.
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