Agency to examine football doping allegations

Spain’s anti-doping agency is looking into allegations that

doping practices have spread beyond cycling and into football.

Ana Munoz, the director of Spain’s anti-doping watchdog, said

Thursday that the agency is ”gathering information” about

allegations by a former club president that Spanish team Real

Sociedad had its players use performance enhancing substances.

Inaki Badiola told Spanish sports daily AS this week that before

he took over as president in 2008 that the club had made

”under-the-table payments” for six years for ”medicines or

products classified as doping” substances.

Badiola said Eufemiano Fuentes, the doctor allegedly at the

center of the Operation Puerto doping ring currently under trial in

Madrid, ”could have been” the supplier to the Basque club.

”But he himself (Fuentes) should confirm this in the trial

going on right now for Operation Puerto,” Badiola told AS.

That is unlikely since the trial has been limited to cycling and

is hampered by the Spanish laws that were in force at the time of

the investigation seven years ago when doping had not been

criminalized.

Fuentes, Sociedad and its players, and another former club

president that Badiola implicated in the supposed doping practices

have all denied the accusations.

The club issued a statement saying that it can ”guarantee since

Dec. 20, 2008, there have been no irregular practices” at the

club, adding that it would ”actively collaborate” with

authorities to ”clarify the facts.”

Former Sociedad president Jose Astizaran, who ran the club from

2001-2005 and is now the president of the Spanish football league,

said that Badiola’s charges are unfounded. Astizaran added that

Badiola had unsuccessfully taken him and others to court ”on

various charges” and that he had been cleared of all them.

Fuentes is one of five defendants being tried on charges of

endangering the health of cyclists he allegedly performed blood

transfusions on to boost their stamina before or after races, after

raids by Spanish police in 2006 discovered evidence of so-called

”blood doping.”

The fact that only cyclists have been implicated in the Puerto

case is a source of concern for many of sports’ international

governing bodies, above all the World Anti-doping Agency since even

Fuentes has said he worked with athletes outside of cycling,

without specifying.

The first indications that Fuentes could be linked with Sociedad

came in court last Friday when prosecutors questioned another

defendant about the letters ”RSOC” that appeared on a piece of

paper found in the police investigations.

After the proceedings closed for the day, Fuentes told Spanish

media on his way out of court that RSOC sounded ”like the name of

a good wine.”

The Puerto trial is scheduled to run until March 22. The Spanish

anti-doping agency has already asked for the judge to hand over any

information that could assist in its investigation into doping

activities when it issues its verdict.

Badiola had already made similar accusations during his one-year

stint in charge of Sociedad.

Angel Villar, president of the Spanish football federation, told

El Pais newspaper on Tuesday that ”thank God there is no doping in

football, well, very little, so little that the cases that appear

are anecdotal. In Spain, football players go through tons of tests

each weekend and nobody tests positive. That’s the reality.”

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said that he had never seen

”anything that made me suspect” a player was using a banned

substance.

Badiola’s accusations cover the years from 2001-07. Numerous

players played for Sociedad during that time, including Spain and

Real Madrid midfielder Xabi Alonso, who helped the team finish

runner-up in the league in 2002-03 before signing with Liverpool a

season later.

Sociedad midfielder Xabi Prieto came up through the club’s youth

system and has played for its first team since 2003. He denied

there has ever been doping in his club.

”Neither I nor my teammates ever saw anything strange,” Prieto

said. ”If someone has seen something strange or that they don’t

like, let them denounce it before a judge, but for us, the ones

implicated, the ones who have been here for many years, we haven’t

ever seen anything strange and we have a clear conscience.

”Cycling has nothing to do with football,” he said. ”They

can’t give you anything to make you shoot the ball into the

net.”