The CSC-Saxo Bank team has suspended Frank Schleck from racing in the final weeks of the season after he admitted making a payment to Dr Eufemiamo Fuentes, the Spanish doctor at the centre of the Operacion Puerto doping investigation.
In a carefully worded statement, the CSC-Saxo Bank team said Schleck had admitted paying money into a Swiss bank account in March 2006, but said it was only for training advice by experts who presumably worked with some of the biggest names in the sport. The statement insists that Schleck paid (a reported £5,000) without even knowing the name of the coach involved.
German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung first reported that Schleck had paid Fuentes during last week’s world championships in Varese. His hotel was searched by Italian police and his father’s car was searched during this year’s Tour de France although it is unclear if both searches were part of any combined police investigation.
Caught up in the consequences of yet another of his riders being linked to Dr Fuentes and Operacion Puerto, CSC team manager Bjarne Riis announced that Schleck was temporarily suspended from racing with the team.
?For the moment, Frank has to concentrate fully on this case and we will await further information from both the Luxembourg Anti-doping committee and the UCI in order to make an assessment of our further actions in relation to this. Together with Frank, we have made the decision that he doesn?t enter our race programme until we have had the chance to evaluate the outcome of this.?
The full CSC-Saxo Bank statement:
Team CSC Saxo Bank has received a thorough briefing from Fränk Schleck and awaits the Luxembourg Anti-doping committee?s ruling and further information from the UCI.
The Luxembourg Anti-doping committee has had a preliminary meeting with Fränk Schleck on the basis of which it will be decided whether or not to open disciplinary proceedings concerning his proclaimed involvement in the Operacion Puerto. Fränk Schleck has also had a meeting with the UCI in order to explain himself.
Fränk Schleck has supplied the team as well the Luxembourg Anti-doping committee with the following information and evidence.
He never used or attempted use of a prohibited substance or a prohibited method.
He has confirmed that he has made the bank transaction to the Swiss account in March 2006, in order to receive training advice by experts who presumably worked with some of the biggest names in the sport. At the time, Fränk Schleck had no reason to believe that this was not the case. There was no suspicion on his behalf of any unlawful action. He interrupted the contact after taking advice from his father and his near friends.
He deeply regrets having taken initial contact to these people and confirms towards his team and the Luxembourg Anti-doping committee that his involvement never went beyond the initial contact, i.e. the bank transfer.
He has never received, nor made use of any services from these people ? including Eufemiamo Fuentes, whom he has never met. He did not know the name of Mr. Fuentes until the Puerto case was revealed on May 23th by the Spanish authorities. He realized the link between his contact and Mr Fuentes only a couple of weeks after this date.
He is fully prepared to give a sample of his DNA to relevant authorities to prove that he has not stored blood in Madrid or elsewhere in order to make use of illegal performance enhancing methods.
He admits having made a serious blunder in taking contact to and transferring the money to the bank account and he became early aware that he should not continue any working relationship with these people.
The evidence that Fränk Schleck has provided to support his case is the following:
His full bank statements show no further transactions to the Swiss bank account.
His blood values from then and now show no indication of any tampering, manipulation or anything that could suggest the use of illegal substances or methods. This has been confirmed by Dr Rasmus Damsgaard, Bispebjerg University Hospital who has analyzed the values.
There is no evidence in the full Operacion Puerto case file that suggests his involvement in the case. This has been repeatedly confirmed by the UCI – being in possession of the complete case file. This further supports the explanation that Frank Schleck has given.
?We were very disappointed to hear that Fränk has been in contact with people who have done great harm to the sport and ruthlessly tarnished the most important principles that we all should adhere to in the fight against doping. His behaviour has been irresponsible towards himself and his team. In the whole discussion about this case, we have always tried to gain as much information as possible and we are utterly relieved to hear and see evidence that supports that the connection between Fränk the Spanish case didn?t go beyond an initial contact and was interrupted two months before the Puerto case got public. He has shown great remorse in his attitude towards this serious blunder and he is fully aware that he has not been acting in accordance with the rules of the team?, says Bjarne Riis who together with the management of the team will await further news about the case.
?For the moment, Fränk has to concentrate fully on this case and we will await further information from both the Luxembourg Anti-doping committee and the UCI in order to make an assessment of our further actions in relation to this. Together with Fränk, we have made the decision that he doesn?t enter our race programme until we have had the chance to evaluate the outcome of this. We have given our main sponsors a full briefing of this matter and they fully support our actions in relation to this. We would like to express our sincere hope that Fränk comes out of this case in a way that is acceptable to him and to the team and we will do our utmost to make the most reasonable and sound decisions for him and for the team?, Riis continues.