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Relax team director suspended after impolitic comments

Jose Maria Perez, director sportif of Relax-Fuenlabrada was suspended Sunday by his employers following controversial remarks made about the ONCE team and their former world champion Abraham Olano. Perez claimed on Spanish radio last week that Olano had won the world title in 1995 with a hematocrit reading (the percentage of red blood cells) of 62, and that ONCE had a 2.5 million dollar "pharmacy budget.” Perez, whose team only has an overall budget of 11,000 dollars, also claimed that Swiss rider Alex Zulle, with the iBanesto team, "was not riding well" because he had been deprived of his

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Jose Maria Perez, director sportif of Relax-Fuenlabrada was suspended Sunday by his employers following controversial remarks made about the ONCE team and their former world champion Abraham Olano.

Perez claimed on Spanish radio last week that Olano had won the world title in 1995 with a hematocrit reading (the percentage of red blood cells) of 62, and that ONCE had a 2.5 million dollar “pharmacy budget.”

Perez, whose team only has an overall budget of 11,000 dollars, also claimed that Swiss rider Alex Zulle, with the iBanesto team, “was not riding well” because he had been deprived of his “supplies”, in reference to doping products.

The day after making the comments, Perez departed the Vuelta after presenting apologies to the individuals concerned.

ONCE, Olano and the Spanish Association of Professional Cyclists said they would lodge a formal complaint against Perez.

The hematocrit level, which in the average adult male is around 43 percent, is analyzed to determine whether riders have turned to blood-boosting drugs, including main culprit erythropoietin (EPO). The UCI imposed a limit of 50, above which a rider is suspended for reasons of “safety” for at least two weeks. Riders with naturally higher levels are given dispensation after providing medical evidence to support the claim. Marco Pantani, who won the 1998 Tour de France and Giro d’Italia was found to have a hematocrit level of 60 after an accident in 1995.