Fernando Escartín, a Spanish rider who was active during the EPO era, has taken over as technical director at the Vuelta a España in the slot vacated by Abraham Olano last summer, who was fired in the wake of a French investigation dating back to the 1998 Tour de France.
The Spanish daily AS reported Friday that Escartín and Paco Giner will share the role as technical director at the Spanish grand tour.
The move doesn’t come without controversy.
In July, Olano got the boot from Vuelta director Javier Guillén following revelations stemming from a French Senate investigation into doping, with several riders outed for EPO and other banned substances dating back to the scandal-plagued 1998 Tour de France. Olano, Laurent Jalabert, and Stuart O’Grady were among riders who were publicly revealed in the investigation.
Olano never publicly admitted to doping, instead telling the Spanish media in July he was “surprised” and insisted he had done “nothing illegal.”
Olano, who helped re-energize the Vuelta with exciting and challenging course designs over the past several editions, expressed anger and dismay at being fired.
“I am very hurt,” he told AS in July. “I understand that ASO is a large part French, because if not, I wouldn’t be able to understand any of this. I have to study my case with my lawyers … but the damage is done, and it would be hard to go back.”
Unipublic — the Vuelta’s holding company that is controlled by Tour de France owner ASO — said in a public statement the news out of France required it to act, citing its commitment to the “fight against doping.”
That decision raised hackles from some quarters, especially when it came to light that Escartín was being groomed to take over the role.
The 45-year-old Escartín turned pro in the early 1990s with CLAS, riding as a gregario for Tony Rominger. He later switched to Mapei, Kelme, and retired with Team Coast in 2002.
Twice second in the Vuelta, in 1997 and 1998, Escartín was never directly involved in a doping scandal, but raced in a time when EPO was rife throughout the peloton.
Escartín, a Spanish climber who reached third in the 1999 Tour behind Lance Armstrong and Alex Zulle, quietly assumed duties during the 2013 Vuelta, along with Giner, a former sport director at Kelme, to learn the ropes.
There was no official word from Guillén on Friday, and VeloNews could not reach a Vuelta representative for comment.