Hamilton, Contador star witnesses this week in Operacion Puerto trial
CADIZ, Spain (VN) — Tyler Hamilton and Alberto Contador will be star witnesses this week in the ongoing Operación Puerto trial, but they are expected to offer dramatically different testimony.
Hamilton will likely dish juicy details about how he doped with principal defendant Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes while Contador, who has denied working with Fuentes, is being called as a defense witness by ex-ONCE and Liberty Seguros boss Manolo Saíz.
Hamilton is scheduled to testify Tuesday afternoon via a satellite connection from the Spanish embassy in Washington, D.C.
The 41-year-old has already confirmed his collaboration with Fuentes, which he laid out in chilling detail in his autobiography, The Secret Race.
Hamilton’s testimony will be critical to prosecutors’ case against Fuentes, Saíz, and three others on charges of endangering public health.
While not directly related to the case, it will be interesting to see if Hamilton elaborates on how and when he first made contact with Fuentes.
Hamilton insists that it was Saxo-Tinkoff team boss Bjarne Riis that initiated the first meeting between them. Riis denies ever meeting Fuentes, something Hamilton has refuted, saying Fuentes and Riis were in the same room when he was present.
Danish cycling federation officials are watching the case closely and told VeloNews that Riis could be in hot water if there is irrefutable evidence that he was linked with Fuentes as part of the doping ring. Multiple former Riis riders, including Jörg Jacksche, Ivan Basso, and Fränk Schleck have been linked to Fuentes.
Contador to refute Liberty Seguros ties
Contador, meanwhile, is scheduled to testify Friday in the Madrid courthouse in an appearance that is sure to draw a big crowd. The ruling judge denied Contador’s request to provide testimony via videoconference and insisted the reigning Vuelta a España champion appear in person.
The Spanish climber has long denied working with Fuentes, something that Fuentes himself confirmed in a radio interview in Cadena Sur in 2007.
Contador, however, was one of nine riders prevented from starting the 2006 Tour for alleged links to Puerto. His name was later officially removed from the record by judges and the Guardia Civil.
Some insist that Contador’s name appeared among a list of nicknames and codes as “AC,” but so far the judge presiding over the Puerto case has prevented Fuentes from revealing the identities of his clients.
Speaking before the start of the Tour of Oman earlier this month, Contador told the Spanish wire service EFE: “Testifying in Operación Puerto is something that I am not losing sleep over. I am concentrating on the season and I have no problem going to testify; it doesn’t worry me.”
Contador is expected to back testimony provided so far by Saíz that Fuentes was not working directly with Liberty Seguros at the time of the Spanish police raids in May 2006.
Last week, former Liberty Seguros riders Joseba Beloki, Unai Osa, David Etxebarria, and Isidro Noval all denied working with Fuentes and testified that Fuentes was not a medical staff member of the team in 2006.
Angel Vicioso (Katusha) and ex-pro Marcos Serrano, both Contador’s former teammates at Liberty Seguros, are also scheduled to testify Friday.
Plasticizer test developer
Another interesting witness slated to testify Tuesday is Spanish professor Jordi Segura, who heads up an International Olympic Committee-accredited laboratory that was working on failed efforts to develop a test for plasticizers that would help detect blood transfusions.
As an expert witness, Segura is expected to testify on the dangers of illicit blood transfusions.
Segura’s lab in Barcelona is where 215 bags (99 plasma and 116 red blood cells) collected in the Puerto raids are still being held in a freezer.
The World Anti-Doping Agency and the Spanish anti-doping agency have requested the Puerto judge to allow them access to test the bags for DNA. It appears the judge will not make a ruling on the request until the end of the trial, which is scheduled to continue until mid-March.