Saiz says that he wants to return and build ‘another ONCE’
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Friday, March 11, 2011

Saiz says that he wants to return and build ‘another ONCE’

by Shane Stokes at 9:56 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
Says riders received ‘biological support’, but claims he will be cleared

Manolo SaizHe’s been out of cycling since being implicated in Operación Puerto in May 2006, but Manolo Saiz now says that he is determined to return to the sport at a high level and build another team as successful as his former ONCE squad.

The team dominated the sport for many years, winning the Vuelta a España on several occasions, challenging for the Tour de France title, and also clocking up victories in shorter stage races and the Classics. The team became Liberty Seguros and looked set for a tilt at the 2006 Tour, but was ultimately blocked from starting the event.

Saiz was discredited when he was reported to have met with Fuentes the day Puerto broke, leaving that meeting with a suitcase full of cash and being arrested by police. His teams had a questionable reputation and so there will be some very mixed feelings about his planned return. However he insists that he will be cleared, even if he hints that some bending of the rules may have taken place on his teams.

“We have to know what is biological support and what is doping. If I saw someone dope themselves? If you ask me, ‘have you seen cyclists aid themselves biologically?’ I would say yes,” he said during an interview with Europa Press and National Radio of Spain ( RNE).

“But I've seen them train and sacrifice themselves like nobody else. I am clear on what are the limits and I can assure you that in ONCE, we never passed that limit."

In mentioning ‘biological support’, Saiz may be referring to the quiet belief by some within sport that there is some justification for dwindling hormone levels – and possibly blood values – to be boosted back to regular levels in the case of fatigue or hard training. Fuentes himself has said that he doesn’t consider this to be doping, but rather the protection of the health of individuals.

Aside from the well-documented risks of using products such as EPO and steroids, such actions do however contravene anti-doping regulations; any supplementation of this type is forbidden under UCI and WADA rules. Whatever the arguments some put forward, it’s breaking the regulations.

Despite the evidence uncovered against his riders and others, Saiz has never been sentenced in relation to Operación Puerto. The case against Fuentes and others is ongoing, however.

He claims that they will ultimately be cleared. “In the end we will be declared innocent, no matter when the Anti-Doping Act was passed,” he said, referring to the introduction of that law post-Operación Puerto. “We have seen other operations such as Galgo [the current case involving Fuentes and others – ed.] and we'll see in the end how they conclude.” He adds that he feels the sport has been depleted because of those who have been excluded.

Now, nearly five years after being forced to leave the sport, he talks about coming back. “I'll be back because I think I deserve it on a personal level. I have given much to the world of cycling and I don’t want people to remember me in the way I left it,” he said.

“I want to return again to being active. And, if I must pay something, I have already paid a lot. Cycling is my life, it is worth a lot.”

He said that if the backing was there, a top-notch team could be created. “If you want to invest 15 million euros, you will return with a big team. For me, what gave me a lot of satisfaction was the way I built ONCE and I'd like to return and build another ONCE.”

It remains to be seen if any sponsor would take the risk.

Says Contador is innocent:

Saiz commented on the current case involving one of his former riders, Alberto Contador. He tested positive for Clenbuterol during the 2010 Tour de France and while he has been cleared by the Spanish federation RFEC, he faces the possibility of an appeal by the UCI or WADA.

He said that he believed that going on his past experience with the rider, that he didn’t think he would take banned substances. “The Alberto that I knew and I taught, of course I believe in his total innocence. And I think in these things, he has not changed. I cannot put my hand in the first for anyone, but the Alberto Contador I knew [when he was on his team] has no need for these things.”

Contador was implicated in Operación Puerto, but ultimately cleared. One oft-cited reference is a mention of ‘A.C’ on a document released from the investigation in May 2006. In it, those initials were linked to a hand-written note claimed to represent doping schedules, saying ‘Nada or igual a JJ.’ It was interpreted as meaning that at that point in time, he would be given either nothing or the same as the rider Jorg Jaksche. The latter subsequently admitted doping.

Contador denied ever meeting Eufemiano Fuentes, and said he has not doped. Some have suggested that ‘A.C’ could also refer to the rider Antonio Colom.


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