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Beloki retires

By Agence France Presse

Aside from Puerto allegations, Beloki's career might best be remembered for this painful moment.

Aside from Puerto allegations, Beloki’s career might best be remembered for this painful moment.

Photo: Agence France Presse (File Photo)

Spanish cyclist Joseba Beloki, a three-time podium finisher on the Tour de France, announced his retirement on Friday.

The 34-year-old had been without a team since being implicated, along with dozens of other cyclists, in the Operación Puerto doping affair which has dominated the sport’s headlines over the past 18 months.

Beloki finished runner-up to Lance Armstrong in 2002, having finished third in 2000 and 2001.

But he is equally known for being the rider whose crash, during a descent on stage nine in the 2003 Tour, forced Armstrong to famously ride through a grassy field after the Spaniard hit the road.

Beloki suffered multiple fractures, and it was not until 2006 that he fully returned to the peloton with the Liberty Seguros team run by Manolo Saiz, having spent a few brief months with the Boulangere team in France.

The Operación Puerto affair erupted in May 2006, implicating Saiz and dozens of cyclists who were said to be clients of Dr Eufemiano Fuentes.

Fuentes was suspected of running a doping and blood doping service, and although the affair is still not over some top cyclists, including Italian Ivan Basso, have been sanctioned due to their links with Fuentes.

Due to the Liberty team’s suspected links with Fuentes, the entire team was removed from the Tour de France prior to the start in 2006 and the team folded after its title sponsor left the sport soon after.

Beloki began his professional career in 1998 with Euskaltel, before moving on to Festina, ONCE, Brioches La Boulangere and Liberty.

He said he had no regrets about his career.

“I’m leaving with my head held high, and proud of what I’ve achieved,” said the Spaniard. “It’s been 18 months since I last raced. And in that time I’ve fought tooth and nail to try and find a team, but it just didn’t materialize.”

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