Puerto trial: Fuentes panicked over lack of supplies for Basso

A Madrid court heard that Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes was struggling to keep up with demand for his services mid-way through the 2006 Giro d'Italia, specifically for Ivan Basso, which casts doubt over Basso's previous claims that any blood bags were to be used at the subsequent Tour de France, that the Italian rider was ultimately prevented from starting.

At the Operación Puerto trial on Tuesday - in which Fuentes, his sister Dr Yolanda Fuentes, former ONCE and Liberty Seguros manager Manolo Saiz , Vicente Belda and José Ignacio Labarta are charged with crimes against public health - telephone conversations were heard detailing that the doping enterprise had run out of SAG-Mannitol, a solution which preserves red blood cells.

On Saturday May 13, 2006, haematologist José Luis Merino (who is excused from the trial as he is suffering from Alzheimer's disease) had left Madrid, and Eufemiano Fuentes, realising that he was under-resourced with seven clients riding in the Giro, made a panicked phone call.

"I need your help. It's hectic," he pleaded with Merino. "Birillo [Basso's codename] is waiting for us. What should I tell him? That there is nothing to eat? Soon they are in a region where we won't be able to deliver any rolls. It had been anticipated that he would get a sandwich. If there is no sausage, I make him do one with chorizo and cheese. We promised we would give him a couple of ice lollies [blood bags]."

Merino then told Fuentes that he would contact hospitals in Seville, Granada, Cordoba, as well as an armed forces depot in a bid to source the solution. Coming up short, Fuentes was then instructed on how to make it himself.

Fuentes was told to mix saline and glucose "in a pressure cooker" and then place the concoction in "a sterile container". Fuentes showed concern that the heat from the pressure cooker would "burst the bottle".

Merino suggested that Birillo should wait until the following Monday but Fuentes refuted it saying it was "impossible".

Last month in a video conference from Tenerife, Basso admitted he agreed to pay Fuentes approximately US$94,000 (70,000 euro) in late 2005, in return for a complex doping system ahead of the following year's Tour de France. Basso has previously admitted to attempting to dope and was handed a two-year suspension in 2007 for his links to the Puerto case.

Basso admitted to having blood removed three times in late 2005 with full intention to use them, but he stands firm behind his previous statements that he did not transfuse the blood back into his system. The full fee was never transferred because Basso reportedly did not receive the agreed program - as he was expelled prior to the start of the 2006 Tour. He instead allegedly paid Fuentes $20,000 before authorities stepped in, 10 days after the phone call took place.


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