Sports doctor Eufemiano Fuentes used a page of the Tour de France’s official guide to plan where riders would have blood infusions during cycling’s most prestigious race, a German competitor testified today.
Joerg Jaksche, 36, who raced on the Liberty Seguros team in 2005 and 2006, told a court in Madrid that Fuentes circled a map of France where the performance-enhancing infusions would take place. There were so many circles “you could hardly see France,” Jaksche said.
Jaksche, who’s now an economics student, said he paid about 4,000 euros ($5,362) per transfusion to Fuentes via an HSBC bank account in Geneva. He paid in cash for banned drug erythropoietin, or EPO.
Fuentes is among five defendants on trial for a “crime against public health” by overseeing a doping ring that was uncovered in a 2006 Spanish police investigation called “Operacion Puerto,” or “Operation Mountain Pass.” Prosecutors are seeking a two-year prison sentence for each.
Jaksche, the first of several cyclists called to give evidence in the trial, quit cycling in 2007 after becoming implicated in the investigation and has since given televised interviews in which he confessed to doping.
Cyclists have been known to collect and later transfuse their own blood to increase their body’s volume of oxygen- carrying red blood cells that boost stamina. EPO stimulates production of red blood cells.
Ivan Basso, runner-up to Lance Armstrong in the 2005 Tour de France, told the court he got in contact with Fuentes later that year because of his “dream” to win the French race and subsequently had blood extracted on three occasions. He didn’t have the blood re-infused, he said.
Speaking via a video link, Basso, 35, said he paid 15,000 euros in cash to Fuentes. Basso, an Italian, served a two-year ban after he admitted his link to the doping ring in 2007. In a separate case, Armstrong last year was stripped of all seven of his Tour de France wins for doping.
Police initially linked as many as 58 pro cyclists to the ring, based on wire taps, training notes and other evidence found in raids on apartments in Madrid. Fewer than half of that number have faced disciplinary proceedings.
Fuentes testified he helped athletes from cycling, soccer and other sports “guarantee their health was not harmed by the rigors of competition,” the Associated Press reported, citing his testimony last month. The trial, in its third week, is scheduled to end March 22.
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