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After 16 years of silence Manolo Saiz speaks at the Vuelta about systematic doping

Former Spanish team director grilled on live tv about drug use

Manolo Saiz doing an interview

The former team manager of one of the best Spanish professional teams, Manolo Saiz,  made a surprise appearance on television on Monday, and the host asked him directly about doping. Saiz, who managed what was originally Once, then Liberty Seguros-Würth, and later the Astana Team, was arrested in connection with the Operación Puerto drug scandals in 2006. He quit from cycling, and his company lost its ProTour license. It would be later be transferred to the Astana team. Operación Puerto was the the code name a Spanish Police investigation into Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes and his alleged doping network.

Operación Puerto blood bags could finally be released

The investigation began in 2004, following an interview with pro cyclist Jesus Manzano in a Spanish newspaper. Manzano spoke candidly about blood doping on his former team, the Spanish squad, Kelme. He said that many riders on the team used both blood boosters as well as other performance-enhancing drugs, and it was under the supervision of the team doctor, Fuentes.

Two years later, the Spanish Civil guard would arrest Saiz, as well as Fuentes and other staff members. They would raid several houses belonging to staff and riders, including one that Fuentes owned. At that house, the police found hundreds of doses of anabolic steroids and blood products ,as well as centrifuges and other drug paraphernalia.

“Until 2003, no blood transfusion was ever done by anyone on the ONCE team”, Manolo Saiz said when asked by Spanish reporter Carlos de Andrés about doping, on the television set of the Vuelta.

Once he was effectively banned from cycling, from both the teams themselves and the International Association of Professional Cycling Groups (AIGCP), Saiz would move into the hospitality business.

When de Andrés asked Saiz if he denied that his team ever did blood transfusions, he was quick to answer.

“Like I said, until 2003, no blood transfusion was ever done. With the ONCE team, there was never ever, a blood transfusion that was done.”

“And then?” de Andrés asked.

“Then I don’t know. I have doubts, and I know that there are riders of mine,  who asked me for permission to go to work with Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, and I gave them permission.”

You can watch some of the interview in Spanish below.