Hamilton contradicts Riis' insistence that Danish team owner never met Fuentes
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Sunday, November 04, 2012

Hamilton contradicts Riis' insistence that Danish team owner never met Fuentes

by VeloNation Press at 3:14 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Former CSC rider states he was accompanied to meet Puerto doctor

bjarne RiisTwo months after he issued strong denials that he had ever met Eufemiano Fuentes, let alone introduced him to Tyler Hamilton, Bjarne Riis is once again facing up to accusations that he helped his riders to dope.

Riis, who currently runs the Saxo Bank Tinkoff Bank team, was the general manager of its predecessor, CSC, when Tyler Hamilton raced there in 2002 and 2003. Hamilton wrote in his book ‘The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France’ that Riis was responsible for his introduction to the Spanish doctor, who ran a far-reaching doping ring in cycling and other sports.

“I can absolutely deny that this is the case. It is simply not true,” Riis said to the Ritzau news agency at the end of August. “I do not know Fuentes. I have never met him.”

Hamilton’s book has just been released in Danish and in one of the interviews connected with it, he has elaborated on what he said happened after he became a CSC rider.

“Riis knew all about what I was doing with Fuentes. He wanted to know everything. And it was he who introduced me to Eufemiano Fuentes and gave me the contact information for him,” he told Dr.dk.

As regards the claim that Riis never encountered the Spanish doctor, Hamilton is insistent that his version is the correct one. “They HAVE met,” he said, with emphasis. “I remember an episode from 2002 - I think it was in April - when Fuentes and Bjarne were in the same hotel room in Spain. I can still remember what the hotel looks like. Bjarne wanted to meet him, but afterwards Fuentes was a bit angry that Bjarne came with me. I think that Fuentes wanted to keep it as private as possible.”

The now-retired American rider was one of eleven sworn witnesses from the former US Postal Service squad who told the US Anti-Doping Agency about systematic doping on the team. Hamilton said that he started using banned substances there, then later went on to use blood transfusions while with CSC.

“The reason Bjarne gave me the information about Fuentes was so I could start with blood doping,” he claimed. “It was not for EPO or anything else. Fuentes could also obtain EPO and testosterone, but the big challenge was to manage the transfusions, take blood out, keep it safe and get it transported from A to B.”

Riis has admitted to using banned substances during his own career, including for his 1996 Tour de France win, but has always denied doping the riders on his teams.

In early September Danish Cycling Union chairman Tom Lund said that he was concerned about reports about what Hamilton said in his book.

“I can only say that if there is any proof of a link between Bjarne Riis and Fuentes, then Bjarne Riis has a very, very big amount of explaining to do,” Lund told Sporten.dk. “I can not say anything about the consequences right now, because I have not read the book, and this is a case of allegations.”

He said that if it was shown that the Dane was complicit in his riders’ doping, that he would take action. “In DCU we would like to comment on things, but we do it only on the basis of facts,” he said. “This situation is so extraordinary, that I will say this: Bjarne Riis has a very big problem if it can be proved that there is a direct link between him and Fuentes.”

In 2006 the-then CSC rider Ivan Basso was implicated in Operacion Puerto, an investigation into a Madrid-centred doping ring run by Fuentes. Other riders from the Danish team were rumoured to have also been involved, but Basso was the only one from the squad punished for the association.

Just over a week ago former pro Bradley McGee said that CSC/Saxo Bank was a clean team when he raced there in 2008, and when he worked there as a directeur sportif in 2011 and 2012.

Hamilton told Dr.dk that he felt it was crucial to speak the truth at this point in cycling’s history. “If I met Bjarne today, I’d tell him I’m sorry. But that’s what I had to do. Cycling deserves the truth, fans deserve the truth. Bjarne Riis is a good guy, and he did a lot of good things for me. The best years of my career were when I raced for him in 2002 and 2003.” 

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