Former Kelme rider exposes ‘horrific doping practices’

  • Other Sport
  • Friday, 26 Mar 2004

MADRID: Former Kelme rider Jesus Manzano has claimed he was subjected to blood transfusions and made to take unknown substances which left him fearing for his life on last year’s Tour de France. 

His claims come a week after he promised to lift the lid on the Spanish team’s alleged doping practices. 

Manzano, who was sacked by Kelme after last year’s Tour of Spain for allegedly having sex with a woman in his hotel room, admits he is seeking revenge because he is currently living a hand to mouth existence. 

But the 25-year-old Spaniard’s revelations appear to have blown a hole in claims by anti-doping experts that they are winning the battle against the sport’s drug cheats. 

Manzano’s revelations mainly concern last year’s Tour de France. 

He recalled telling his girlfriend the morning of the seventh stage to Morzine in the Alps, before which he claimed he was injected with 50 millilitres of an unknown substance: “Get ready, because according to what I’ve been told I’m going to ride well today.” 

But after riding alongside France’s Richard Virenque on a breakaway, the Spaniard collapsed at the side of the road and had to be taken to hospital after losing the feeling in his hands and arms. 

Although it was reported he had simply been suffering the effects of searing temperatures, Manzano admitted it was the consequences of being given a drug “that makes your haematocrit (ratio of blood cells to whole blood) level stay low but your haemoglobin (red blood cells) level go high.” Manzano had never taken the product before. 

Current doping tests in cycling centre on a rider’s haematocrit level. If the haematocrit in pre-race blood tests is on or above the permitted threshold of 50, the rider is prevented from racing for two weeks because it is an indicator, although not proof, that doping has taken place. 

After three kilometres of the breakaway with Virenque, Maranzo said he began to feel “strange”. 

“My hands had gone to sleep ... and I started feeling nauseous. I felt very warm but had cold sweats. 

“I began to shake, and Virenque looked at me before riding away. I went on for 500 metres and after that I don’t remember anything. 

“I woke up in the ambulance with my tongue feeling swollen and as if I couldn’t take in any air. I wanted them to make a hole in my throat (tracheotomy). The same morning we used something that I’d never taken before.” 

Kelme angrily denied Manzano’s claims. 

“They make me sick,” said the team’s sporting director Vicente Belda. “He is not telling the truth and he cannot tar the entire peloton with the same brush. The team’s lawyers are working on this. (The claims) do no good for cycling.” 

The International Cycling Union, the sport’s ruling body, said Manzano’s claims had “massacred” the image of a sport which has faced renewed accusations of doping since the start of the year. 

“The analysis of samples shows that 90% of riders out there are clean,” the UCI said in a statement. 

“But we will not give up the fight against doping.” – AFP 

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