It was the testimony the trial had been waiting for. Tyler Hamilton, the star witness for the World Anti-Doping Agency in its private accusation in the Operation Puerto investigation, spoke via videolink from the Spanish embassy in Washington on Tuesday and promptly shot down one of the key defense strategies of sports medic Eufemiano Fuentes and his four co-defendants.
“The dead mountain biker,” responded Hamilton when asked who had carried out blood transfusions while he was a client of Fuentes. Alberto León, who committed suicide in 2010 when the Operation Greyhound doping investigation into athletics broke, was Fuentes runner and cleaner. The defendants have always maintained that while they did perform transfusions, they were carried out under almost clinical conditions and never endangered the health of their clients. As doping was not a crime under Spanish law in 2006, Fuentes and his co-defendants stand accused of crimes against public health.
León, who had no medical training and no license to perform transfusions, would carry out his work in hotel rooms without any prophylaxes, Hamilton said. The US rider, who was an instrumental part of the WADA case against Lance Armstrong, was Olympic time trial champion in 2004 and suspended later that year after a positive sample returned at the Vuelta a España. “In July 2004 [during the Tour and before the Olympics] I was given a transfusion that gave me a fever. I was urinating black piss.” When the positive test for a transfusion came back, Hamilton was told why he had been caught: “They said I had another person’s blood in my body. Either they gave me someone else’s blood or the test was bad — or they were playing around with my blood.”
Hamilton told the court his professional relationship with Fuentes began in 2002, in a motorway lay-by between Girona and Valencia. The retired cyclist, who was stripped of his gold medal by the International Olympic Committee last year, said he saw Fuentes “around 15 times” after that first encounter. “We all had secret telephones to communicate with him.”
“The main thing we spoke about that day were the transfusions. I knew he could get me EPO, testosterone and other doping products. He offered me these plus growth hormone and insulin.” Fuentes services did not come cheap: “I paid between 25,000 and 30,000 euros a year. Doping products were paid for separately. In 2004 the price went up to 50,000 because of the Siberia freezing system.” This system, which Hamilton said was the preserve of just “six or seven of us,” was used by Fuentes to improve the effectiveness of freezing the cyclist’s blood for later transfusions.
At the end of Tuesday’s session, the judge announced that Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador will not be called to testify on Friday as scheduled. The lawyer of Manolo Saiz, former team director of Liberty, who requested Contador appear, said he no longer wished him to do so. The judge also said that the whereabouts of Team Katusha racer Ángel Vicioso, who is also due to testify, are unknown and ordered him to be located so he can appear before her.