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Frank Schleck suspended after admitting funds transfer

10/3/2008

COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Cyclist Frank Schleck was provisionally suspended by his team Friday after admitting he transferred money to a Swiss bank account held by a Spanish doctor at the center of a major doping scandal.


The Luxembourg rider appeared before his country's anti-doping agency Wednesday for a hearing into his alleged involvement in Spain's Operation Puerto doping scandal.

Danish team CSC Saxo Bank said Schleck transferred the money to the account of Eufemiano Fuentes in March 2006 "to receive training advice by experts who presumably worked with some of the biggest names in the sport."

Schleck admitted making "a serious blunder" and deeply regretted the contact with "these people," the team said.

However, he denied having direct contact with Fuentes and reiterated his claim that he never engaged in doping.

Team manager Bjarne Riis said Schleck would be suspended from racing for the team "until we have had the chance to evaluate the outcome of this."

Schleck, who wore the yellow jersey for three days during this yea's Tour de France, told the agency that he had not taken any drugs or done anything illegal.

A German prosecutor claims Schleck paid almost $9,850 into a Swiss bank account held by Fuentes, who is at the center of the Puerto case.

The rider told CSC Saxo Bank and the anti-doping agency that "he has never received, nor made use of any services from these people, including Eufemiano Fuentes, whom he has never met," according to the team statement.

"We were very disappointed to hear that Frank has been in contact with people who have done great harm to the sport and ruthlessly tarnished the most important principles that we all should adhere to in the fight against doping," Riis said.

"His behavior has been irresponsible toward himself and his team," added Riis, who last year admitted that he used EPO to win the 1996 Tour.

Operation Puerto, cycling's biggest doping investigation, was set off by Spanish civil guard raids at clinics in Madrid and Zaragoza in May 2006 that turned up steroids, hormones and the endurance-boosting substance EPO, nearly 100 bags of frozen blood, and equipment for treating blood.

Over 50 cyclists, including 2007 Tour de France champion Alberto Contador, 2006 Giro d'Italia champion Ivan Basso and 1997 Tour champion Jan Ullrich, were reportedly linked to the scandal.

World cycling's governing body UCI said there was no evidence so far against Schleck and did not stop him from competing at last week's world championship in Varese, Italy.