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An interview with Jesús Manzano, April 21, 2004
The vicious circle
Spanish rider Jesús Manzano has been at the center of one of cycling's biggest ever controversies after he provided detailed allegations of doping to sports newspaper As last month. In his first interview outside of the Spanish media, Manzano talks to Hernan Alvarez Macias about his reasons for going public, death threats and some solutions to the doping problem.
On March 24 of this year, the Spanish cycling world was shocked by the first installment of a very long, multi-part interview with a previously little known rider called Jesús Manzano, published in Madrid's sports newspaper As. A rider for Kelme from 2000 to 2003, Manzano claimed he was forced to take doping substances by the team. Over five editions of the paper, Manzano provided a full, detailed account of the alleged doping practices in Kelme in 2003 to the journalist Juan "Guti" Gutiérrez.
It was the beginning of yet another chapter in the seemingly everlasting story of cycling's struggle with the blight of doping. Manzano spent three hours in the As newsroom speaking about his problems with illegal substances. He claimed that the doses he received were so strong that he had serious health problems and at one point he thought he was about to die because of an excess of drugs.
Manzano's sporting relationship with Kelme ended well before he spoke to the press, when he was sacked from the team for having a woman in his hotel room during the 2003 Vuelta a Espana. As well as telling his story to As, Manzano has since given evidence to authorities investigating doping in sport in both Spain and Italy. His claims caused ASO, the organizing body of the Tour de France, to withdraw the possibility of Kelme being granted a wildcard entry to the Tour, and Kelme director Vicente Belda has spoken out angrily about the consequences Manzano's claims have had for his team.
Cyclingnews spoke exclusively with Jesús Manzano on April 13, the same day that the Spaniard went to the Spanish cycling federation (RFEC) to present evidence for his claims. Manzano presented 24 pieces of evidence, including prescriptions allegedly signed by Kelme's doctors between 2001 and 2003.
Manzano comes across as a man who is genuinely relieved to be able to talk about the doping regime he claims he endured. His answers are quick and straightforward; he doesn't seem to be trying to hide anything.
Cyclingnews: Why did you decide to talk about this problem? Was it because of the incident when you felt were about to die or there was another reason?
Jesús Manzano: No, the health of a rider, the health of a sportsman must be respected. I decided to talk because when one gets to the point where his health is in jeopardy... it shouldn't be like that [because of doping]. I had thought about telling all these things during the Tour [de France]. I had discussed it with my partner [his girlfriend Marina] and well... The truth is that life is more important than anything in the world, more important than money, than being famous.
CN: Did you really expect the Spanish federation and the UCI would not enforce their rules about self-confessed dopers?
JM: I'm not dodging any sanction. But in the same way they sanction me, they should sanction and should withdraw the medical licenses from the ones who are supplying doping substances. And they should sanction the directors who are involved in these things too.
CN: Do you regret speaking out now that you are in danger of being suspended?
JM: Absolutely not, never! Look, my conscience is... it was a great load off my mind. I'm happy, I'm so very happy. I'm glad this might help someone some day. Although some people think this is harmful for cycling, I think this is very good for the future of the sport and for the people who are coming behind us. People must recognize this fact because I see this is a country [Spain] full of hypocrites.
CN: Some people say you are just motivated by money and revenge. What do you say to this?
JM: Neither money nor revenge. I don't want money. I have to tell you also that I have not been paid by Kelme since December, and they owe me plenty of money. Not one single Euro has entered my bank account up to this morning. I have to live, everyone has to live; we work to get paid.
No revenge. But it's a real shame that this exists and it is taboo! Some say drugs are doing great harm, but the truth is that all medications are a drug.
CN: How are feeling these days about your injured knee?
JM: I'm not currently riding. I'm going to start my rehabilitation this week. I'm really upset because of this tendonitis that I have had for six months. It's something very weird.
CN: What has been the reaction among your friends in the peloton after your revelations?
JM: I just talked with teammates, I mean former teammates. And they still speak to me.
CN: Kelme teammates?
JM: Not from Kelme. They are in other teams and they didn't stop talking to me, but I see them becoming colder with me. It's not like in the past when I had a much closer relationship with them. Now it's a serious thing, it's like a cold sensation, but I don't care.
CN: Have you received death threats? Who do you think is calling you?
JM: I really don't know. Recently, the other day, I received a phone call and I don't know who he was. I don't know who he was, but I can tell you he was not Spanish. His voice doesn't sound Spanish. But if someone wants to harm you, he just comes from the back and he does it. He shoots you, he hits you, whatever. He doesn't come to me saying "blab blab blabs".
Do not attack me from the back. If he has balls, he should come from the front; that's how a man should come. Not like a coward coming from behind. I have not kept my distance from the media, not at all, I don't hide from the media and I have talked about everything. Not like some others who don't have enough balls in this life to talk. There's so much hypocrisy! They are hypocrites, liars and dishonest people!
CN: Are you under any form of police protection?
JM: I don't have police protection, and I don't think I need it. If they kill me, they kill me. But they'd better kill me, because if they leave me alive...
CN: Do you fear for your life every time you go out of your home thinking someone may try and kill you?
JM: Not at all. I'm not afraid of anyone nor have any ill-will toward anyone. And I don't think anyone should have ill-will toward me. I have talked about myself, not anyone else, not a former teammate nor other people from other teams. I have spoken about the things that happened to me, and the person who is free from sin shall cast the first stone.
CN: What do you think about the Cofidis's doping problems?
JM: I cannot speak about another team. I think it's a shame; it's a team that paid very well and it's a serious team. That's all I can say about this, I can [only] talk about my team. Look, some acquaintances of mine have been riding with them, teammates of mine and it's a serious team. I don't think they are involved on these things, but if the boss took the decision...
CN: Do you think what happened with your case could be the beginning of a real and conclusive solution to doping in cycling?
JM: Since there are no [anti-doping] laws in Spain like the ones in France and since there are no anti-doping organizations in Spain like the ones there are in other countries, I don't think my case is the solution.
CN: Do you think these affairs should be judged by national institutions or is it better that international organizations like the UCI or the WADA itself look for global solutions and determine some international laws to be applied all over the world?
JM: There should be a global solution, but I can tell you something: this is a political issue. I believe if this had happened in Italy or in France, oh my God! The mess would be huge! And here [in Spain] look, many days have passed and there were no investigations, nothing. I'm the first. If they want investigate in my house, they can do that for sure, bah, I don't care.
CN: Is it a solution to reduce the distance of race stages and also to reduce the number of races a rider competes in per season?
JM: Yes, I think so. This is a problem that must be fixed in any way, no matter how. Maybe it's cropping the stages. You cannot put five stages of 200 kilometres in the Tour with the peloton riding at an average of 40km or more per hour. I think a rider would give the same spectacle with 120, 130 kilometres and that could fix things so much.
Besides, when a rider tests positive, the team director and the doctor must be punished! Because they are able to feel free to say "the rider medicates himself", like they said about me. I didn't test positive and I didn't medicate myself... How can I medicate myself if the products are extremely expensive and one can not simply buy them in drugstores? And besides, the substances have to be given by a doctor, right? Someone who knows about medicine should be involved, right?
I actually think all this is a scandal! A scandal because there are no ethics. There are people who are getting so very rich thanks to the dummies who are the riders. And this is a matter of human exploitation, exploitation, exploitation. For ten cyclists who earn 100 kilos [100,000,000 former Spanish pesetas, 600,000 euros] - and I don't think there are many of these riders - there are doctors with such great houses, such great cars... And there it is the rider with a two-peseta car, except for the cyclists who have good cars. This is really a shame! This must end in a firm determination or an arrangement.
CN: If it is true there are so many dopers in the professional peloton, it would be tough to compete 'clean' of any substance, right?
JM: I don't know who dopes. I talked about me, if the rest don't say anything that must be because they are clean. It will be tough, really tough to compete in that way. But if you cannot ride, you stay where you are, and if you cannot ride anymore, you get out of cycling and that's it. I rode in amateur competitions and I didn't dope myself being an amateur. The point is that amateur competitions have nothing to do with professional competitions.
I tell you that in my first year as a professional they didn't give me many things. They gave very few things, hardly anything. So, the first year I took very few things , the second one a bit more , the third one  some more, and the fourth one  uff, horrible things! Many things! In the fourth year I had products for me and many more too. The doctor sent me many medications. In fact, today I brought many products in my evidence that were genuinely horrible things.
CN: When a rider dopes, who do you think is mainly responsible for this act, the team director, the team doctor or the rider himself?
JM: I think the least responsible is the rider and I'll tell you why. Because if you don't get in the vicious circle, in the next year you are fired. So, you've got to get in that circle, you have no choice, if not you become jobless. Or you are considered a rebel. I had an argument with my former team in Valencia and they ask me to shut up, not to tell anything. I don't have a reason to shut my mouth! What really happens here is a shame.
If this had happened in Italy or in France, we would all have been arrested. I would have been freed because I would have turned evidence. I have told my truth and I have presented all my proof. I received a sanction from the UCI? All right, I received a sanction. But, sanction the UCI too. Many doping controls are being taken and everyone is... I took controls and I didn't get positive.
CN: Last question. How do you think the next stage of your career will go in your new Amore e Vita team?
JM: First of all, I have to take care of myself. My health comes first because of the problems with my knee. I'm about to start a rehabilitation process and then I will see. I really don't know how things will go. I'm not sure that I [only] have a tendonitis because I have been dealing with this problem for six months.
[Note: Cyclingnews did not pay Manzano for this interview.]
Manzano affair coverage on Cyclingnews
Sunday, March 21:
Manzano wants revenge