Blanco Cycling scrutinizes Luis Léon Sanchez’s past due to reported links to Operación Puerto
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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Blanco Cycling scrutinizes Luis Léon Sanchez’s past due to reported links to Operación Puerto

by José Been at 11:06 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
Dutch newspaper states that rider had codename ‘Huerto’ on Fuentes’ doping list

Luis Leon SanchezWith the first day of the court sessions of Operación Puerto coming up in Madrid next Monday, Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad has some revelations concerning one of the riders connected to the case.

After revealing which number and pseudonymThomas Dekker represented in Dr. Fuentes records, today the paper reports that Luis Léon Sanchez was also on the list under the name Huerto plus the number 26.

It appears that 25 seconds in the 2006 Tour of Catalunya prologue were central to making the link between Sanchez and the code name of Huerto. There are phone taps in the Puerto files. One conversation between Fuentes and trainer Ignacio Labarta is about Huerto leaving for a Liberty Seguros training camp in the Pyrenees shortly after that call. The Spaniard did indeed join that camp.

The second conversation is more specific. On May 15, 2006, at 6.29pm the following call took place. “Huerto called me,” Fuentes said. “Yeah, they told me,” Labarta answers. “He was 25 seconds too late for the start of the prologue”. Even though Fuentes mentions a wrong time difference of Luis Léon Sanchez and the winner of the prologue, Spanish paper El Mundo notes the following day that Sanchez was indeed 25 seconds too late for the start of that Tour of Catalonia prologue.

The doping schedules Fuentes used show different blood transfusion moments for Huerto, or number 26, in 2006. He received one blood bag just before Paris-Nice, and one before Tour of Catalonia. He has two bags of blood drawn from him on April 10, after which he takes time off to recover. Two other planned transfusions don’t take place because the Spanish police raids Fuentes’ lab.

It is not the only time the Spanish rider is linked to doping cases. His name comes up in the USADA report and is linked to Ferrari and several other doping-related cases in Spain.

He has been with the Rabobank/Blanco Pro Cycling team since 2011, when the-then manager Harold Knebel offered him a contract.

In that year he won the ninth stage in the Tour de France, a victory which saved the Rabobank’s Tour. One year later he repeated that feat in a Tour which was otherwise disastrous for the Dutch team. Captains Robert Gesink and Bauke Mollema had to leave the race after the Metz massacre and, apart from Sanchez, the results were bleak.

Winning the 14th stage and the Clasíca San Sebastian in 2012 earned Sanchez an improved three-year deal with Rabobank. The contract was signed before Rabobank ended its sponsorship of the team and is worth €2.6 million, according to NRC.

Despite saving the team on several occasions with victories, the usually-silent Spaniard is controversial within the now-renamed Blanco Cycling Team. One directeur sportif says anonymously that Sanchez is a problem and that re-signing him was “a huge failure.”

According to the NRC article the other Blanco riders took him under fire at a team meeting. Furthermore the team is scrutinizing his blood values and started an internal investigation. The team management had a long talk with Sanchez at the training camp in Spain on Friday and informed the other riders of the enquiry.

Blanco Cycling has taken a big risk in Luis Léon Sanchez. The team that wants to start all over again this season with a new and fresh image to secure a new sponsor deal for 2014 and onwards, faces difficult times with Sanchez within its ranks. The 29-year old Spaniard denies every involvement with Dr. Fuentes, Ferrari and other cases. For now, as long as Sanchez keeps denying, it seems that the team can’t fire him.


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