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Photo ©: Swift

First Edition Cycling News for March 28, 2004

Edited by Chris Henry & Jeff Jones

Manzano destroyed by cortisone

Jesus Manzano
Photo: © Daniel Schamps

Like a runaway train, ex-Kelme pro Jesus Manzano continues to pour forth his confessions of how he doped himself with illegal drugs in order to keep racing. Although not naming any other riders in his team who may have done similar, Manzano does point a lot of blame at his team doctors, whom he alleges assisted him in many of his doping episodes, as he was unable or unwilling to do it himself. And Manzano also places no small degree of responsibility on his team directors for pressuring him into performing beyond his limits.

In part 4 of his interview with AS, Manzano describes how he was injected with cortisone nearly every day of the 2003 Vuelta in order to 'help' some tendonitis in his knee. "It was cortisone, cortisone, cortisone...For my knee injury. One day yes, one day no, another day yes...They were injecting me almost every day.

"I began getting injections at the beginning of the Vuelta because it was getting annoying. A man who had nothing to do with the team came to give the injections. He was a friend of the director. I didn't think a rider who is [in good shape] should need injections throughout the Vuelta a España, because soon enough I could see the hole that was left in my knee.

"I talked with a rider during the race who was going to see a doctor in Barcelona for a knee problem that he had. But they told me I shouldn't see a doctor, and if I did I'd have to pay with my own money! When I got back to the hotel they continued injecting, injecting...I thought on the stage to Cerro Muriano I was going to die of pain. Still they told me I was lying. I didn't think I'd be able make it over the climbs on the stage at Cordoba."

Manzano now claims that he can't ride a bike any more because of the cortisone, which has a destructive affect on bodily tissue. Now whenever he puts any pressure on the pedals, his knee swells up and he gets a big haematoma.

Manzano also defends himself against accusations that he is making all this up, or that he was doping completely of his own volition. "Some people will say this is just my story," he said. "But how would I know how to inject something in my knee, with all the tendons and ligaments... You have to be a doctor or somebody who knows how to inject, and where. How was I going to go around injecting myself in the back of my leg? You have to be relaxed."

Using other people's blood

One thing Jesus Manzano did draw the line at was getting a blood transfusion with someone else's blood, although he says the choice was offered to him. "Ultimately, I've heard that other people can be utilised for blood transfusions. Look, I've not done that, because in life you must be sincere and not a liar. They offered it to me. I don't have to put the lives of my mother, of my family and of my girlfriend in danger. They offered it to me because a rider when he is racing cannot take products such as EPO. What would happen is to enrich the blood of some person and extract it, before they do the test.

"They offered to do it with my girlfriend, Marina, and with certain others. They asked me if there was some relative with the same blood group as me...It's too much that I'm putting my own life in danger. With all the crap that there is, all the hypocrites covering it up...I'm not going to say if others have utilised it. I don't give names, I'm only accusing myself, no-one else. Neither sportsmen, ex-teammates, teams... That remains clear in this interview, that I don't blame anyone. Is it worth it?

A cycling junkie?

Manzano said that he could 'puncture' himself 12 or 13 times a day, including injecting himself with EPO (sometimes twice a day) and doing his own blood tests. On some days he would measure his hematocrit four times: once in the morning, once after training, once in the late afternoon and once at night. Then he would take doses of growth hormone, folic acid, vitamin B-12 and iron, and finally serum and aspirins to stop his blood thickening too much.

"And there are some days that you have to inject cortisone or HMG, which is a male hormone to balance the testosterone with epitestosterone, or you take some cofactor, like Geref, Neofertin, things like that, that are expensive treatments compared to the ones we have already spoken about."

"You puncture yourself in various places. In the the veins of the elbows, in the hands...and even in the legs. Look at the elbows, look at the hands. You can see them...My girlfriend, Marina, told me that if she knew that a cyclist had to inject himself so many times, she would have preferred that I never become a cyclist. She said it's shameful.

Manzano said that a "good treatment" has to be started a month and a half before a big race, "because you have to stop if 15 days before competition, although other companions have recently spoken of three days, but you leave 15 because look at what happened in the past [in the Tour].

Insulin: not for Manzano

Manzano finally mentioned insulin, which he says is combined with other drugs. He says he was instructed to use it directly after hard training, referring to a medical plan that he says was given to him by his team's doctors. "I don't know why it's used, because it's something that, to tell the truth, I have never used. I am not diabetic. A diabetic has to give himself insulin, no?...Really, in this case, I don't know what function it has."

While there are no doubt more revelations to come in the Manzano affair, the ex-Kelme rider believes that the riders should not be the only ones sanctioned when they return a positive test. "You know what would put an end to this? When a rider is positive, sanction the doctor and director: two years each. Because a director says that tomorrow there is climbing and it will be war. And the medico, pam, pam, pam, pum, pum, pum, pum. And automatically, war. And if the director is a guerilla, you'll be attacking all day.

"I ultimately thought I was ready to leave. Besides, I already told my partner. We'll start a clothes store, or something like that. And if I have to eat one cutlet instead of two, so be it."

Kelme reacts to Tour snub

Comunidad Valenciana-Kelme director Vicente Belda has not surprisingly expressed his disappointment at his team's exclusion from the 2004 Tour de France and other ASO-organised events, a decision announced Friday by the Tour organisers. Belda maintains that his conscience is clear concerning his team's conduct, and criticised the Tour organisers for making their decision without any proof to back up Jesus Manzano's claims of systematic doping within the team.

"Everyone has his own opinion, but right now in this case it's necessary to prove that what [Manzano] has said is true," Belda commented.

"Even if I respect the decision of the organisers, I think it's an injustice," he added. In light of similar revelations in the past months from former Cofidis riders, particularly Philippe Gaumont who has offered his own explanations of how he routinely used banned substances in competition, Belda is equally disappointed.

"Is Cofidis going to be excluded from the Tour as well?" he asked. "What I know is that Philippe Gaumont also made his own revelations about what he did while still at Cofidis. Clean riding for everybody, and the same rules for everybody..."

"This is the price we pay; it's the gift we get from the rider and the paper that published his story," Belda said, quoted in Marca. "I don't want to say anymore because the case is now in the hands of the investigators who will put everyone in his place."

Comunidad Valenciana disappointed

Although Kelme director Vicente Belda doesn't believe the Manzano affair will necessarily mean the loss of new team sponsor Comunidad Valenciana, "it doesn't help anybody," he said. The team is in crisis mode as it seeks assurances from organisers of major races such as the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a España following the decision of Tour de France organisers ASO to exclude the team from its races.

Members of the Valencian government have shared in Belda's frustration over the decision, and the accusations from Jesus Manzano which thus far remain unsubstantiated.

"People are condemning the team based on an unproven accusation, without any proof or evidence," said Esteban Gonzalez Pons in a Marca report. Pons is the governor of the Valenciana region in Spain which this year became the title sponsor of the Kelme team. "When suspicion is used to condemn, it creates a great sense of insecurity."

"The withdrawal of the invitation to the Tour seems to me an injustice," Pons added, "since it comes at the height of a mass media revelation from a rider who no longer has a license, nor a team, which doesn't offer any proof."

Kozlitine admits providing EPO

Oleg Kozlitine, director of the French Division III team Oktos-Saint Quentin, admitted during questioning by French police that he had provided EPO to former Cofidis professional Philippe Gaumont during his career, according to a l'Equipe report. Kozlitine was called for questioning by judge Richard Pallain, in charge of investigating the various charges of doping and drug trafficking surrounding various former members of the Cofidis team.

Kozlitine was released after questioning Tuesday, at which point Oktos team president Pascal Cordier commented that this was "an affair of individuals, not a team affair," echoing statements made by Cofidis management in months past.

Cordier indicated that Kozlitine would be fired "without delay" once there was an official confirmation of the transfer of EPO to Gaumont.

Lamour holds another meeting

French sports minister Jean-François Lamour held another meeting with the heads of state of French cycling, continuing his dialogue on the subject of doping in the sport. A key issue in the discussions remains the role of technical assistants (soigneurs) in French teams, following recent enforcement of a law requiring massage to be carried out only by licensed physical therapists.

Among those present with Lamour Thursday afternoon in Paris were French federation president Jean Pitallier, president of the French professional league, Thierry Cazeneuve, national doctor Armand Mégret, and Philippe Raimbaud, manager of Brioches La Boulangère and also president of the association of French professional teams.

"The minister could tell that cyclists have begun working, and we have found somebody who's willing to listen," Raimbaud told l'Equipe. "Jean-François Lamour has set out a path, and cycling intends to show him that there's a motivation to follow it."

Among Lamour's concessions to the concerns of the cycling community is the consideration of a professional certificate program to allow technical assistants to reclaim their roles as masseurs within the peloton.

Quick.Step checks out Tour TTT

Monday, following the conclusion of the Critérium International in northeastern France, several members of the Quick.Step-Davitamon team will take a first look at the team time trial course for this year's Tour de France. Tour leader Richard Virenque will test the routes between Cambrai and Arras along with Laurent Dufaux, Laszlo Bodrogi, Pedro Horillo, Juan-Miguel Mercado, Patrik Sinkewitz, and Jurgen Van Goolen.

"We decided to make the most of the fact that the Critérium International race isn't far away from Cambrai, where the fourth stage of the Tour will start," said directeur sportif Serge Parsani. "This is a great opportunity for us to train on the race route in sight of the forthcoming Grande Boucle."

Pezzo back in competition

Italian mountain bike queen Paola Pezzo will return to the dirt Sunday at the Granfondo del Montello, her first competition after an emergency appendicitis on February 27. Pezzo was back on the bike in training earlier this month, and will tackle the first round of the MTB Challenge Veneto series with the Granfondo del Montello.

Peloton visits Pantani's parents

After the peloton of the Settimana Ciclistica Internazionale Coppi-Bartali passed just a few kilometres from Marco Pantani's parents' home in Italy during Thursday's second stage, the deceased champion's mother sent race organiser Adriano Amici a message expressing her gratitude.

"Thank you for what you have done for Marco," Mrs. Pantani wrote. "I hated cyclists before, but this morning when I heard you were passing by, I couldn't resist coming. It seemed like the caravan was being pushed by Marco, and seeing the group made me feel like I want the best for this sport. Perhaps because of Marco, because he loved the gruppo and he loved cycling, and he gave his life to it."

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