Valencia and Barça deny COPE doping claims

Radio station broadcast alleges Real Madrid consider current controls a "joke"

FC Barcelona and Valencia CF responded vigorously on Monday to accusations broadcast on a Spanish radio station on Sunday night that both clubs are or have been linked to doping.

In a program broadcast on the Cope radio network, presenter Juan Antonio Alcalá asserted that Real Madrid president Florentino Pérez was preparing a dual petition to the national soccer federation, of which Pérez is a board member, seeking an improvement in refereeing standards and tougher anti-doping controls. In the broadcast, it was stated that Real Madrid questioned the presence of Eufemiano Fuentes, a sports medic at the center of both the Operation Puerto and Operation Greyhound doping scandals engulfing Spanish sport, at Valencia during its two title-winning seasons in 2002 and 2004. It also stated that Real "does not understand" why medical staff of "doubtful repute" are currently working at Barcelona. According to the broadcast, Real considers current doping controls "a joke."

"Valencia Football Club wishes to express its indignation at the information released by the Cope radio network and which has been reproduced by different media. In respect of the same, the club wishes to express that Valencia FC has never worked with, been assessed by nor advised directly or indirectly by Mr Eufemiano Fuentes. Any affirmation to the contrary constitutes a serious lack of veracity on the part of the media that sustains this information."

Fuentes, who was recently in court to testify in the Greyhound scandal surrounding a doping network in Spanish track and field, allegedly stated: "If I talk, Spain will not have the European Championship or the World Cup." Fuentes later made a written statement denying that he had uttered those words.

Whether or not the allegations are mischief-making on the part of the radio network, they are serious enough that the secretary of state for sport, Jaime Lissavetzky, leapt to the defense of the country's most popular and profitable pastime. Lissavetzky also flatly denied reports that Real Madrid had called on Spanish authorities to start taking doping in soccer "seriously": "Nothing has reached [the government] and we are not aware of this topic," Lissavetzky stated at an event organized by the Real Madrid Foundation and the Superior Sports Council, at which Pérez was also present.

"No complaint has reached me and neither should it reach me. There are a series of controls that follow guidelines set out by Fifa and Uefa. There are surprise controls in Spanish soccer and you see them very often. Barcelona has already won a court case against information published by a newspaper, Le Monde. Spanish soccer is clean," the government sports supremo added.

The last case of doping in the Spanish top division concerned Athletic Bilbao player Carlos Gurpegi, who was handed a two-year ban by the Sports Disciplinary Committee in November, 2003. Gurpegi returned a positive test for 19-norandrosterone, a derivative of the banned steroid nandrolone. Both the player and Athletic maintained that the substance had been produced naturally during physical exercise.

Barcelona also posted a fierce rebuttal of the allegations on its club website: "FC Barcelona wishes to publicly express its total indignation at these unfounded references that link the club to doping practices and to condemn such attitudes, which have nothing to do with fair play and gravely affect the image of sporting competition. FC Barcelona is demanding an immediate rectification and wishes to let it be known that its legal department is studying possible action to defend the club's honor, alongside that of its coaching staff, players and medical staff and is prepared to take such action to its final consequences."

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