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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

First Edition Cycling News for March 29, 2004

Edited by Jeff Jones

Manzano Part V

Jesus Manzano's detailed explanations of his downward spiral into doping continue, with the fifth episode published by AS on Sunday. In it, he describes the pressure to dope and when he started doing so, as well as his concerns about his health.

"I don't accuse anyone but myself of doping, but you can see the circle you are put in. They all talk of a vicious circle. You enter it and it's not that you can't leave it, but when I said I didn't agree with something they said I didn't have any balls and was shit."

Manzano said that he didn't dope as an amateur. "Yes, I took caffeine, but that is another thing," he said. He recalled in the amateur Championship of Spain in Cordoba he finished second behind a Basque rider, and afterwards went to hotel where there was a professional team staying. The doctor measured his blood values and was surprised that Manzano's hematocrit was "only" 40 percent.

"I never took EPO nor growth hormone as an amateur. Never. They say that category is rotten, but I don't know. In my time, it wasn't. I have to say, and I mean it, that before I was an amateur I never took recovery products. And in the amateurs I started to help myself recover. With serum, with any glucose serum, I would inject two syringes of 20cc. That was in the amateurs. I don't hide anything. I'm not a coward.

"I started this sport with the greatest dreams in the world, because I set myself a goal and I wanted to work to win money or to be someone. I don't think I was that bad as an amateur, when I won the Vuelta a Extremadura, came second in the Championship of Spain, third in the Vuelta a Sevilla. And I only raced six months in that category."

It took three years in the pro ranks for Manzano to pass from being a clean amateur to a doped professional. "You have to face these things for yourself to see that they are there. I have started to see things, clearly, everything has side effects. It's said of growth hormone that if you have had an illness, it's like it stimulates it so that you get it again. Ultimately I have thought that I will die before I reach 50. You realise that you are playing with products that can make you sick."

Manzano contends that it is too difficult to do more than one three week Tour without medical help. "Of course you could race without doping, but a cyclist would not be able to do the Tour and Vuelta, for example. You would be there, but there would be things you couldn't do because you would be at the limit. You would recover a little bit, but if your iron dropped, how would you recover?"

Manzano believes it would be possible if the stages were reduced from 200 to 140 km. "And the cyclists will give more of a spectacle."

The Pressure

"They forced me to dope? That's a difficult question to answer. But I don't want to hide from it. I insist that this is the fish that bites its tail. You enter into professional cycling with all the dreams in the world, believing that you are going to make a future for yourself, and the more results, the more you earn. The doctor comes to you and tells you: we are going to give you that. If you tell him no, you can throw away the next year.

"Why doesn't the ACP (Association of Professional Cyclists) do anything? I don't have an answer. I believe that the ACP should exist to support all cycling. I received a telephone message in which they told me that a pact of silence was taken. Not these exact words, but more or less. Then there was that petition that was signed by the peloton."

Manzano called on the ACP to open a way of investigating affairs like this and to defend riders' rights, particularly after the way he claims he was ejected from the 2003 Vuelta España. After the 19th stage, which didn't go well for the team, Manzano said he was talking to a female friend in his room when the director and manager knocked on the door. Manzano agreed to talk to them and let them in. His director said:

"'You don't start tomorrow, not because your behaviour is displeasing me. But, we believe that you could be at 50.' And I told them how could I be at 50, when two people were measured with me. They thought I was doping myself. But why would I do that? There is no EPO now that won't give a positive."

That was the end according to Manzano, and he was dismissed from the team. Kelme didn't pay him in December, claiming he had to send back his bikes. He did so, but says he hasn't received a peseta since. Later he was accused of drug trafficking, but denies this strongly.

"I don't deal in the white powder, as a director who called to my house has said. That is very serious. If I did I would have seven cars, seven house and not be renting a house. I have not taken cocaine. I tried a bit when I went to an institute and I became so hungry I bought a Pepsi and a packet of gummies. Never again."

Addicted to Prozac

"Drugs and doping are different things. It doesn't mean that a rider will become addicted to cocaine through cycling. But yes, you become dependent on other things such as antidepressants, Prozac. You take two tablets a day and you are already euphoric. All of that leaves you with an addiction. It's not positive. The tablet of happiness, I've heard it being called...You don't sleep. So many days, so much pressure and stress. In the morning, breakfast, then the bus, this and that, race, shower, massage, supper, another thing. You resort to Prozac, Floxetina, they are drugs that really hook you.

"I've taken it for races, for ages, and after the Tour I went to the head doctor because I was depressed. He gave me Prozac. When I was down, depressed, I always took Prozac. I have prescriptions, justifications from the doctor. From there to drugs is just a step. But no-one can accuse me of dealing in the white powder. That is very serious."

Manzano's list

A list of the products that Manzano has referred to in his interviews.

Actovegin (extract of calves blood which supposedly improves oxygen carrying capacity)
Albumina H. (protein in blood plasma)
Androgel (testosterone)
Aranesp (Darbepoetin alfa = super EPO)
Celestote (corticosteroid)
Eprex (EPO)
Genotorm (growth hormone)
Hemoce (plasma)
Deca durabolin (anabolic steroid)
Humatrope (growth hormone)
IgF1 (insulin growth factor 1)
Neofertinon (hormone to stimulate ovulation and estrogen production)
Neorecormon (hormone that regulates red blood cell production)
Norditropin (growth hormone)
Nuvacten (corticosteroid)
Trigon (asthma drug)
Urbason (corticosteroid)
Ventolin (bronchial dilator)
Oxandrolona (anabolic agent)
Vitamin B12 (essential B vitamin)
Triamcinolona (corticosteroid)
Testoviron (testosterone)
Aspirina (analgesic, anti-inflammatory)
Oxyglobin (artificial haemoglobin intended for anaemic dogs)
Hemopure (artificial haemoglobin)
Ferlixit (iron)
Caffeine (stimulant)
Hemassist (artificial haemoglobin)
Prozac (antidepressant)

Doctor denies he doped Manzano

...But called a hypocrite

Eufemiano Fuentes, a doctor who worked with the Kelme team and Jesus Manzano, has denied giving the cyclist any illegal substances. "If Jesus Manzano did these things it was hidden from the team," Fuentes was quoted by El Diario Vasco as saying. "We have no knowledge of what Manzano has said goes on within the team."

However, a close friend of Manzano's, José Luis Montoya, called Fuentes a "hypocrite" on the Spanish Antenna 3 TV station. "When I read this in the newspaper, it has particularly incensed me," he told AS. "In the first place, that this gentleman says that Manzano hid all this from the team, is a total lie. This man is a hypocrite. He was not hiding it, far from it. I took Jesus Manzano from here (Zarzalejos) to a hotel in Torrejon de Ardoz to see this gentleman. There I found myself with cyclists from all over Spain who were there doing exactly the same thing. He gave us a prescription, we went to a certain pharmacy in Madrid to get certain medical products. I have spoken to Jesus and asked him if he still had the prescriptions Eufemiano gave him. He still has them in the gentleman's own handwriting and with his signature."

Manzano debate: Riis weighs in

Team CSC's general manager Bjarne Riis has expressed his opinions about the revelations of Jesus Manzano, which have lifted the lid on doping practices in cycling like never before. Although Manzano hasn't named anyone else in his own very detailed admissions, he has clearly pointed the finger at his Kelme team management and doctors as holding responsibility.

His actions have already resulted in the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) excluding the Kelme team from the Tour de France and any other races organised by ASO. Meanwhile, Kelme has threatened legal action against Manzano and Spanish newspaper AS, which reported his comments, while the UCI has also stated that it will take a similar approach to "all who, by their actions, do such damage to cycling's image." The UCI also stated that blood tests show that 90 percent of the peloton is clean.

In a press statement issued during the Criterium International, Bjarne Riis commented that, "Each case, which throws cycling into a new debate regarding speculations about doping, affects all of us. Even though we still do not know precisely how many of Jesus Manzano's claims are true, his statements have nevertheless given rise to yet another sad case in cycling. The stories one can read in the Spanish press these days place the Kelme team in very poor light. If this turns out to be an accurate representation of how they work then it should have very serious consequences.

"It is - to put it mildly - extremely frustrating to experience how some within the sport do not live up to the wish that most of us have for a healthy, sound, professional sport. We cannot live with these kinds of scandals as a regular turn of affairs. All riders and all teams are responsible for maintaining the credibility of cycling. We owe this to everyone - both within and outside of the sport."

Riis' own team has not escaped suspicion that it is using doping to dominate events such as the Tour Mediterranean, Paris-Nice, and even the Criterium International. But Riis strongly defends his team, "Our team has delivered a fantastic season so far, and our results are based on plain, hard work that everyone can vouch for. We have nothing to hide, no secrets that cannot stand the light of day. Everything we have done is 100% justifiable in the face of any criticism or suspicion, and ought to be a good example in support of all future cycling."

Riis called for cycling not to lose its focus, "I am entirely on a par with the statements made by UCI and Lance Armstrong: There is strong documentation indicating that the largest part of the professional cycling world has a clear conscience. I wish to emphasize that on our team we have a crystal clear, unconditional attitude to the use of illegal substances. All riders are aware of this and have signed their names to contracts stating that any such use is unacceptable in any form whatsoever."

The UCI has proposed to implement new tests soon in order to detect such things as blood transfusions, and Bjarne Riis is fully supportive of them. "The new tests...should be able to put an effective end to most of the outrageous behaviour revealed by recent cases," said Riis. "I hope and believe that they will clearly bring to light those teams that actually compete on correct, doping-free terms. The latest cases indicate that it is necessary, and we look forward to seeing the new tests in effect. The sooner, the better."

Lastly, Riis called for other riders and teams to "face up to the seriousness of this matter. It is time to clean up, and to make sure that these cases do not ruin the fine, dedicated effort put in by many, an effort which makes cycling worthy of investment."

Victory from the jaws of defeat for Boonen

Tom Boonen (Quick.Step-Davitamon) takes out the E3 Prijs
Photo ©: AFP

Tom Boonen (Quick.Step-Davitamon) won the biggest race of his career on Saturday in Harelbeke, taking out the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen in a bunch sprint. But victory was definitely not assured for the Quick.Step young gun, as he suffered two mechanical problems in crucial phases of the race.

"I didn't think it would happen," he told Belgian VRT television. "Then when I came back to the front, the three breakaways were away. I thought: 'It's once again not for today'. But the team worked fantastically, I always believed in them. And with Zanini there I was difficult to beat."

As it was, Boonen was fined SFR30 by the race jury for motorpacing with Roger Hammond behind the MrBookmaker team car after they had both punctured with 19 km to go. That was a small price to pay for the victory, which was very important for him and his team.

With this win, the pressure has been eased off both Boonen and Quick.Step-Davitamon's shoulders. "I had said beforehand: if I win Dwars door Vlaanderen or the E3 Prijs, it's good. Now the team is a bit more relaxed," said Boonen.

The Muur van Geraardsbergen is back

On Saturday, March 27, the Muur van Geraardsbergen was officially reopened after many months of resurfacing work. The climb is legendary in the Flemish classics, and has been used since 1950 in many races. Although its steepest section of 22% remains, the road surface is now much less difficult to negotiate and. It could still play an important selective role in the Ronde van Vlaanderen next week, but it will not be the same as before.

"The new Muur has really disappointed me," commented Dave Bruylandts (Chocolade Jacques) to Het Nieuwsblad. "It has become an autostrada. As if they had laid asphalt over it. Earlier you won 10 seconds with the right line. Also the Paddestraat and the Lippenhovestraat have become main roads."

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