Spanish cyclists banned from Tour give blood samples

Updated: June 26, 2006, 5:04 PM ET
Associated Press

MADRID, Spain -- All 20 cyclists on a Spanish cycling team expelled from next month's Tour de France voluntarily gave blood tests Monday, looking to clear their names in a nationwide doping scandal.

"The cyclists are fed up with being mistreated," Comunidad Valenciana team director Vicente Belda said. "They are innocent and there is no reason for all cyclists to be lumped together."

Comunidad Valenciana was tossed from the Tour de France, which begins July 1, after its deputy director Jose Ignacio Labarta was arrested as part of the investigation. The blood tests taken Monday will be compared with those seized by police in May.

El Pais, a leading newspaper, said Sunday that Civil Guard police investigations show at least 15 members of another cycling team -- formerly known as Liberty Seguros -- were among 58 professional cyclists who may have received prohibited substances and blood transfusion in recent years. The Civil Guard on Monday declined to comment.

About 200 professional cyclists quit riding Sunday during an elite road race in Madrid to protest the report.

Manolo Saiz, the former top official at Liberty Seguros, and four others were arrested in May when police seized steroids, hormones and the endurance-boosting substance EPO. Nearly 100 bags of frozen blood and equipment for treating blood were found, along with documents on doping procedures performed on cyclists. Saiz was questioned and released, and he denies involvement in doping.

Liberty Seguros withdrew its team sponsorship shortly after the police seizure. Astana-Wurth took over the team and announced Saiz's resignation this month.

Only four cyclists, all Spaniards, were identified by El Pais on Sunday. The newspaper said Saiz told police that at least three Liberty Seguros cyclists -- Roberto Heras, Marcos Serrano and Angel Vicioso -- had asked for Fuentes to treat them. The fourth rider identified in the report was Isidro Nozal.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press