The claims made Monday by the former president of Liga club Real Sociedad, Iñaki Badiola, that illegal doping products paid for with undeclared money between 2001 and 2007 have brought the Operation Puerto trial closer to the hallowed doors of soccer.
In an interview with sports daily AS, Badiola, who was in charge at La Real for a little under 12 months in 2008, said that the club had spent over 300,000 euros on products supplied by Eufemiano Fuentes, the sports medic at the center of the Puerto doping trial.
"For six years La Real paid for medicines and products in illegal money that at the time were catalogued as doping products and for this reason were obtained on the black market," Badiola said. "These could perfectly well have been supplied by Eufemiano Fuentes. We want to find out if the dates on the documents in our possession coincide with those of Fuentes. Firstly, because this is what we must do and secondly because we spoke of this in 2008."
In a video of a shareholders' meeting in 2008 published on AS' website, Badiola states: "327,000 euros has been spent annually during x number of years in payment to Eufemiano Fuentes, in undeclared money. Including the year that La Real finished second , Eufemiano Fuentes, from Operation Puerto, was the man who supplied the medicine. We've been buying strange medicines for 342,000 euros a year. It's an ugly business."
Including the year that La Real finished second , Eufemiano Fuentes was the man who supplied the medicine"
Among the former presidents of the Basque club that Badiola said were in charge during the timeframe of the unaccounted expenditure – March 2001 to January 2008 – is current Professional Football League president José Luis Astiazarán.
"During my time as president of Real Sociedad [2001-2005], I never had knowledge or suspicion of illegal practices by the club's medical services, who always worked to the maximum ethical and professional standards," Astiazarán said in a statement on Monday. "If I had, I would have taken the necessary action."
In the ongoing trial against Fuentes and four co-defendants in Madrid, the code RSOC came up in court. Fuentes has admitted using codes and nicknames on bags of blood seized in Civil Guard raids on properties linked to the investigation, which broke in 2006 and involves potentially hundreds of athletes who sought the doctor's services. The case initially centered on cycling but Fuentes admitted on the second day of the trial also having treated athletes from other sports. "In a personal capacity I worked with all kinds of athletes; cyclists, track and field athletes, soccer players, tennis players and boxers."
Asked last Friday what RSOC meant, Fuentes joked: "It sounds like a good wine to me." Quizzed again over the acronym on Monday after Badiola's interview was published, the medic replied: "No comment."
Fuentes and his co-defendants face charges of endangering public health, crimes which could carry a jail term of up to two years if they are convicted. The judge sitting on the case has so far refused calls from prosecutors to force Fuentes to reveal his full client list. It is expected that a decision on full disclosure will be included in the final summary, expected in mid-March. Alternatively, the judge may decide to open a new investigation into revelations that crop up in the current trial.