BOTERO BOWS OUT UNDER DRUG PRESSURE
One top rider’s career is over following the Spanish drugs raids — but how many more are to end in the near future?
Former world time trial champion Santiago Botero of Colombia has said that after his team, Phonak, told him that he could not race during an internal investigation, he is now going to retire.
Botero, together with Spaniard Jose Enrique Gutierrez, had been exposed by a Spanish magazine as one of the potential clients of controversial former team medic Eufemiano Fuentes and leading Spanish haematologist Jose Luis Merino Batres.
Fuentes and Merino Batres are currently charged with public health offences, after police uncovered a huge array of banned drugs and manipulated blood sachets in a Madrid laboratory.
Merely seeing Botero’s and Gutierrez’s name in the press was enough for Phonak — already reeling from the scandals involving Oscar Camenzind, Tyler Hamilton and Santiago Perez — to sideline them both.
Gutierrez is hardly a two-bit player in the Swiss team either: second in the recent Tour of Italy behind Ivan Basso, ‘the Buffalo’ was a prime candidate for the Tour de France team.
The Tour de France does not plan to ignore the major players in the Spanish ‘Operacion Puerto’: a decision is expected this week about Spanish team boss Manolo Saiz, detained by police when meeting Fuentes. Nothing solid has been proven about Saiz’s involvement in the scandal so far — apart from his astonishing ability to pull sponsors out of the hat. Saiz has not, contrary to initial reports, been interrogated by the police, and although he was detained, he is unlikely to face any charges.