Contador not being called as Puerto witness; Vicioso goes missing

Contador removed from witness list by Saíz attorney; Katusha rider, scheduled to testify on Friday, is missing

MADRID (VN) — There were more twists in the Operación Puerto trial Tuesday as defense attorneys made the surprise announcement that Alberto Contador would not be called to testify.

Just moments after Tyler Hamilton finished his riveting, if frustrating testimony, attorneys representing ex-ONCE/Liberty Seguros manager Manolo Saíz said they would not call Contador to the stand on Friday as planned.

Speaking to VeloNews and others outside the courtroom, attorney Ignacio Arroyo said he made the decision alone.

“I did not have any contact with Contador, his attorneys nor anyone around him,” Arroyo said. “I did not discuss this with Manolo. He found out just like everyone did, right now at the end of today’s testimony.”

Contador, scheduled to testify on Friday, was expected to be a star witness this week after a judge denied his request to testify via videoconference.

Just as Hamilton was wrapping up his testimony, Arroyo made the surprise announcement. Arroyo said it was his decision alone not to call Contador.

“I don’t know what (Contador) could bring to the case. We’ve already had several ex-Liberty Seguros riders testify. What we wanted to demonstrate with (Contador) has already been demonstrated in court,” he said, referring to testimony last week from Joseba Beloki and others who claimed that Fuentes was not involved with Liberty Seguros in 2006.

“I know it would have been very interesting to all of you,” he continued, referring to the gang of journalists pressing in around him in the courtroom lobby. “I have to look out for the interests of my client and I see how the case is evolving and I have to make decisions for the benefit of our case.”

Contador will likely be breathing a sigh of relief. Even though he was being called as a defense witness, he would have been open to cross-examination from prosecutors and others joining the case against Fuentes.

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.

Vicioso missing

In another odd twist, the presiding judge announced that Spanish authorities could not locate Angel Vicioso, a former Liberty Seguros rider now with Katusha, who has been called to testify Friday.

The judge said police went to his residence in his Spain and discovered he was not there. Vicioso made his season debut at the Tour de San Luís last month, but was not scheduled to race this week.

Vicioso was scheduled to appear February 12, but asked for a medical exemption to postpone his testimony.

VeloNews could not immediately reach Katusha officials for comment.