On Paco Mancebo and Operacion Puerto

Discussion in 'Doping in Cycling' started by steve, Oct 15, 2010.

  1. steve

    steve Administrator
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    “Operation Puerto”, the police intervention in Madrid against a doping network, was the result of a detective’s curiosity, of a Spanish Guardia Civil police lieutenant who, having broken up a few gangs for counterfeiting and wholesale distribution of anabolic steroids, wanted to know how the last step was organised, that of the distribution of substances and methods among athletes. To find out, it only took a judge to allow some phone-taps and surveillance of the most renown sports doctor in Spain, Eufemiano Fuentes. The consequeces of his findings overcame him, the judges’ lack of enthusiasm to unravel all the secrets of Eufemiano paralized him. His weren’t the political interpretations, and he was left with the feeling of an unfinished work which either the national and international sport authorities didnt want to complete. He just kept on unveiling the secret life of elite athletes to the public, the keys to a world that, unaltered, untouched, 4 years and a half later is still going on and run by the same people as before. Lieutenant Enrique has now become a captain and was destined to go Afghanistan where he works in intelligence. Probably another Spanish Guardia Civil team will be phone-tapping at this moment, doing surveillance and intercepting Eufemiano or other doctors. Some implicated riders were sanctioned and have returned to race, others are still riding without ever having been sanctioned, others are suspended at the moment, others retired as no team would hire them, others tested positive, were sanctioned and have not come back, others spoke out, have written books, given interviews, have repented, broken the code of silence and haven’t been accepted again, others continue in limbo, racing for hardly any money in small teams afar, in exotic races… At noon May the 23rd 2006 Paco Mancebo feels that his life has changed forever when a Spanish radio station reports the arrest of Eufemiano Fuentes, Manolo Saiz and some others, as well as the discovery of dozens of bags of blood in 2 flats in Madrid. Soon after that, a friend telephones Mancebo, who is in his home in Geneva. “I’m fucked up, really fucked up”, says the rider. “A few weeks ago I was at Eufemiano’s preparing blood for the Tour. I left there a couple of bags”. His whole career, Mancebo’s life is reduced to the two bags, plus a few more he has left ready in recent months, and suddenly he is plunged into a skeptical and paralyzing stupor from where Luisa, his wife, tries to pull him out . “Something must be done,” he says. “Something can be done. I will”. Luisa thinks. At this point no rider’s name had yet been revealed and despite that in the ‘cycling scene’ everyone knows Mancebo is one of Eufemiano’s customers, they could still prevent his name being made public if he cooperates with the investigation . A few days later, through the CSD, Mancebo gets in contact with Enrique, the lieutenant who had started the phone-taps some months before, like in ‘The Wire’, monitoring, intercepting, investigating the movements of Eufemiano Fuentes and his friends who would lead to Operation Puerto. Mancebo joined him a couple of times. He helped him to interpret some documents in the records, to unravel the keys behind the hidden substances prescribed by the physician to dozens of cyclists. He tells him about his life. He tells him that a few years before, his team director, tired of watching him always finishing no better than in 6th or 7th position in the big races despite his high class, quality and capacity for suffering, said one day: “Paquito, you have to go to the doctor, the doctor decides who wins the race, the doctor decides the general claissifcation of the Vuelta, the Giro, those ones who don’t go with him are not worth a damn”. Paquito goes and sees the doctor, Eufemiano, who makes him sit on a chair and asks him “ how long do you have to finish your contract?, Two years?, so the first year we will take it easy, without risk, and then on the second will enter all the array. He prescribes him anabolics (beans) for the winter, then EPO from January onwards and HMG (HGH?) (power) for the big stages. The first time that he took Andriol (the anabolic), Paco could not sleep at night thinking that on the next morning an inspector from the UCI could come and test him. Nobody comes and although Eufemiano tries to calm him down, saying there is no danger, he threw all the pills away. Despite all the treatments, despite all the risks, Mancebo didn’t improve his performance, nor did he get worse, he stayed where he was. With him the myth breaks. Mancebo doesn’t win. And nor does he wins anything big the following year, when he has already begun to receive blood transfusions. One day he goes to Eufemiano’s office who makes him take a seat and extracts more than one litre of blood from him. “That’s all”, he says, “when the Tour starts this blood will be waiting for you in Limoges on the day off, that’s how I organize it, I have partners who take charge of everything, you don’t have to worry about a thing”. Paco tells everything to Enrique, who transcribes it all and gives him back to sign as an official statement for the records, but Mancebo refuses to sign, says he has nothing against Eufemiano, he voluntarily visited him, that he paid him regularly for the treatment, why he should betray him. So Mancebo lost his immunity because he wouldn’t sign a statement that on the other hand did little to help the investigation. Enrique, the Spanish police lieutenant, must build a case of a crime against public health- let ‘s remember that by May 2006 it had not yet entered into force in Spain the anti-doping law that criminalises the actions of doctors and others promoting or organizing doping activities – and to prove that he needs patients, athletes who have put their lives at risk by following the advice of Eufemiano. Mancebo can not help with that. He can not invent an anaphylactic shock, an allergic reaction, an illness related to the use of substances delivered by Eufemiano, or caused by transfusions carried out not in health facilities, but in hotels, private homes, and train stations toilets. Inevitably, Mancebo’s name appears within the list of dozens of cyclists of Enrique’s first report. This hasty, clumsy report is not produced by the Guardia Civil at the request of the judge, who doesn’t care about the names of the cyclists who gave and received blood, but at the request of the Tour de France. A week before the Tour, El País began to publish the documents found in the records that have been kept secret until then. The next morning, the Spanish riders boycotted the National Championship so that is no held for the first time in its history. Only two riders, Pedro Horrillo and Paco Mancebo, take the start. They make a lap around the circuit and went home. The Tour, alarmed by the possibility that some of the riders involved might tarnish their event, requires an official report to the president of CSD, Jaime Lissavetzky, to be delivered to the teams so that they can proceed to undertake an internal purge at a meeting held in Strasbourg. Mancebo, like Basso, Ullrich, Sevilla, and all the Liberty riders, must go home before the start. Shortly after, Ag2r, the team in which he thought he would eventually become rich, dismissed him, although it also pays for all his contract. Allan Davis is on the list. Valverde is not on the list. As Mancebo, dozens of riders are suddenly left in limbo. They can not race because it’s widely known they have been doped with Eufemiano, but can not be punished because the judge denies the cycling federation sufficient evidence to build a case. It is precisely then, in August 2006, when everything goes bad, all gets stranded in offices, in the refusal of the cyclists to cooperate, in the lack of political will to take advantage of things learned with Operación Puerto, to organize an investigation committee to see the extent of doping in all sports, to propose an acceptable way out to all riders, to lay down the law and to start from scratch in 2007. The cycling world organizes its Zonderkommando, the teams will fight each other for cheaper riders, all betray their neighbors, they all thinkabout how to survive, some accuse others, blacklisting, organizing witch hunts. The UCI and WADA, is drowned in paper, they leave everything in the hands of their lawyers. As snipers, Italian and German anti-doping authorities are only concerned to trying to punish the most famous names. They don’t investigate the branches of Eufemiano’s network in their own countries, the doctors who work with him, that help to establish safe ‘blood banks’ during the Giro and the Tour. Enrique collaborates with Italy and Germany. He helps them find the legal and policy loopholes that would allow them to take samples of blood bags and make Basso confess, Ullrich be punished, and many others. In France, where there was also ramifications, nobody does anything. In 2007, Mancebo rides for Relax, a second division team that wants to give an opportunity to all those lost in limbo, including Sevilla, Santi Perez, Vicioso. He seeks agreement with the CSD, he wants official medical monitoring, he wants to prove that one can start again from scratch. The experiment fails and sinks when la Vuelta refuses to let the suspects take part. The following year, Mancebo goes to Portugal, earning 900 euros a month. Nobody sanctions him, but it’s not an important team, with his quality, who wants to run the risk of hiring him. He is on the blacklist. Alejandro Valverde is also on the blacklist, harassed and accused by all sides, only kept afloat by the strength of his team Caisse d’Epargne. His name is the symbol of the operación Puerto. Even when Eufemiano was under arrest at the police station, he asked the policemen whether they would go after Valverde, one of his clients who he assured was involved. However, although a list of blood stocks in 2004 included the notes “ Valv (Piti)”, Enrique could not find sufficient evidence, nor phone taps, diaries, doping calendars, etc, to add his name to the list. Manolo Saiz and his lawyer, Carlos Bueren, call the jounalists, “why don’t you talk about Valverde?”, they challenge them, “Mention Valverde, don’t be afraid”, and support the invitation with an envelope of clippings from a newspaper article in which Valverde is seen playing with his puppy called Piti. And everyone knows that Basso’s dog is called Birillo, and that the all the nicknames used by Eufemiano are the athletes’ pet names – except for Mancebo, who is Goku, from Dragon Ball – and they wonder why Valverde keeps riding and winning as if nothing had happened. Mancebo means nothing and Valverde is the symbol. Both suffer as the hunted. Operation Puerto gets reduced to a manhunt. Valverde’s finished with a worldwide ban applauded by the survivors, who have managed to change just enough so that business keeps the same. Even though CONI had skipped all legal procedures, all the normal legal precautions, all normal judicial standards in order to do it. Mancebo’s manhunt, who is now 34, continues and will go on until he quits. In 2009, thanks to his friend Sevilla, who is exiled in Colombia, where he finds love and a team in which he continues with his bad gear and has just tested positive, Mancebo experiences the madness of the yankee team Rock Racing. He even wins a stage of the Tour of California and is the leader until Leipheimer’s team Radio Shack pull together to fiish him off, and furthermore, he suffers a fall on the queen stage. In 2010 the American team disappears, Mancebo is unemployed, takes part in mountain bike races, keeps on training and finds a Greek sponsor for a team in Murcia, Spain. He shines in the Tour of Mexico and the Tour of Utah, even won the Tour of Guadeloupe. As his future seems secured with a big sponsor, he asks his former director, Eusebio Unzue, to hire him, to return to the ProTour after 5 years since Operation Puerto. Unzue refused. He has received some information from the Spanish federation. “When the trial for crimes against public health starts against Eufemiano, Merino Batres, Saiz and other defendants, we will ask the judge for the bags of blood, Unzue is told, then we will begin with the sanctions, including Mancebo, so don’t hire him”. Cycling remains the same, but without Mancebo, who, in September, instead of racing in la Vuelta of Spain, races in the Tour of Bulgaria, where he finishes third and where he finds out that there are still UCI races without doping controls. A few months after Operation Puerto, Enrique meets José Luis Merino Batres on the street, who is the owner of the testing laboratory and the man who organized the logistics of the Puerto transfusions. After greeting him he tells the lieutenant: “The one I pity the most is Mancebo. Do you know that he naturally has sauch a high hematocrit level, of 49, that we could not give him anything because he would been detected easily? We only gave him a placebo and little else. We’ve been cheating him for a few years. New Pathways for Pro Cycling * Note: this has been re-posted here with the authors permission
     
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  2. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    Depressing story.

    Depressing because if you're to believe the story, Mancebo effectively used a placebo (see the last sentence of the article).

    Depressing also because of the double standards employed by Fuentes, the cycling authorities and the respective national federations.

    This sport of ours is a mess.
     
  3. steve

    steve Administrator
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    Right now, do you think there is any hope? Floyd spoke well during the conference, very black and white. I also had lunch with Aldo Sassi on the Friday the u23's raced, it was clearly the highlight of me being involved with cycling, I feel pretty good about supporting anyone he coaches.
     
  4. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    I'm not sure that one can be hopeful given that the sport appears to be permeated with the problem of doping.
    The riders doping is one aspect.
    But what about the ancilliary support : how many wives/sisters have helped support this doping structure?
    Basso's sister, Rumsas wife.........

    Look at the team structures which supported the riders who have been caught doping too.

    We've been discussing this problem for the best part of a decade and still the rollcall continues to be added to.
     
  5. swampy1970

    swampy1970 Well-Known Member

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    A decade? Give me a break... Please, take your head out of the media packaged bucket of sand.

    People have been discussing this for more than a decade, Lim. The Festina Affair was 12 years ago - the PDM debacle almost 20 years ago. The whole Belgian political system got involved when Merckx first test positive in the late 60's (he'd go on to fail 3 dope tests). Speaking of Head of State, Charles de Gaul knew of Anquetil's doping and didn't care, uttering the quote "Doping? What doping? Did he or did he not make them play the Marseillaise abroad?"

    Face the facts - the East Germans and Russians were doing all manner of steroids in the 70s and blood doping in the late 70's early 80's. Moser and the Italians were blood doping pre- Mosers hour record. The USA Olympic Team blood doped to high heaven in 84. Doping was as, if not more, widespread in the 60's and early 70's than it is now. The Tours first doping scandal was in the late 1920s. Riders were dying pre-1900 from trying to dope and gain an advantage - almost 70 years before Tommy Simpson died on Mont Ventoux.

    Sure, the "go juice' might not be as potent but the intent is still the same.

    The Tour de France has a doping history that's as old as the history of the event itself.

    ... the only thing that's changed is the hyper-media exposure partly due to the growth of the Internet and world wide news sources. People outside of cycling in the 70s probably didn't know who Merckx was, let alone that he'd tested positive 3 times. Fast forward 40 years and pretty much everyone in the Western world knows that Lance and his ex-Posties are under investigation for fraud related to doping.

    Lets face facts. Cycling is the hardest, gnarliest, toughest sport on the planet. It demands more from the top atheletes than any other sport and it's hardly any wonder than riders and consequently teams, resort to trying to gain an edge. In some cases it's just to make it through the season fetching bottles for the boss... for some it's going for the win. That desire to gain that edge isn't going to go away and there's too many of the "old guard" still in the sport with the mentality to keep old school practices going and there's always going to be some riders who try to do their own thing outside of the team... regardless if the team is clean or not.

    It doesn't help that the way that the UCI and WADA bicker endlessly nor does it help that some doping results are leaked, that some are hushed up or that there's rumours that some are covered up....

    It's going to take the mother of all dope testing reforms to resolve this situation - something akin to testing the all the pro riders on a near weekly basis all year round.
     
  6. steve

    steve Administrator
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    Members here have been discussing it for about a decade /img/vbsmilies/smilies/tongue.gif
     
  7. swampy1970

    swampy1970 Well-Known Member

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    I predict that men will figure out what women are truely thinking before doping in cycling is solved.
     
  8. pennstater

    pennstater New Member

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    Very depressing on many levels. Mancebo looked like hell on a bike when he was suffering (not quite as bad as Escartin), which made him easy to cheer for. He always looked semi-human when he was left by the likes of Armstrong and Basso (ala 2005 Tour), but he was usually able to keep attacks in check and not lose too much time. Its amazing how some of the riders who were involved in OP have gone on to win grand tours, classics and other stage races, while others have been left in 'limbo'. Whether he used a placebo or not, its just crazy that he fell off the face of cycling while others with similar incriminating evidence ride for major teams with great results a few years after OP.

    Like Lim said, "this sport of ours is a mess."
     
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