Wednesday, 13 December 2006

Apology demanded

Fax to Le MondeLess than a week after Le Monde's allegations of blood doping at a number of Spanish clubs, including Real Madrid, the legal machinery at the club has finally cranked out a response.

In a fax sent on the 11th to the newspaper's editor-in-chief, Real Madrid strongly denies any links between the club and the doctor at the centre of the allegations, Eufemiano Fuentes. The fax goes on to state that no unauthorised product or substance has ever been used at the club and demands an apology from the paper with the same prominence as was given to the original article. Finally, it affirms the club's intention to initiate legal action against the paper and any others who may have been responsible for the publication of the allegations.

Of the other clubs implicated, Barcelona has already said they will be taking legal action against the paper, and Betis have threatened legal proceedings if the story is not retracted. Interestingly, Valencia are taking a different tack, ruling out suing Le Monde. Their president, Juan Soler, is quoted as saying "I know how the process of going to court ends. It becomes you say one thing and I say the other. The best thing is for the supporters to be clear about it and leave it like that".

In response to the original article, Ronaldo said he didn't even know who Eufemiano Fuentes was. "There's really nothing here to hide. We don't do anything illegal and are always available for the random inspections that UEFA carry out, or whoever else for that matter. We take medicine when we are sick or injured, but nothing that can improve or enhance our form," he added.

Figures released by the World Anti Doping Agency show that football complies with its standards in testing its participants from urine samples. However, the same cannot be said for blood tests, which are still being resisted by FIFA. That would be the only way to test whether any of the blood doping allegations had any fundament.

My feeling is that it is extremely unlikely that any of the clubs named by Le Monde are implicated in wholesale doping of their players, for the simple reason that hiding such practices is almost impossible. All it takes is one disgruntled player, or manager (and there are plenty of those) to bring the whole affair into the public domain.

However, this does not mean that individual players wishing to enhance their performance or stamina have not in the past availed themselves of the services offered by doctors such as Eufemiano Fuentes. There seems little sense in FIFA's reluctance to comply with WADA's recommendations and introduce blood testing, particularly as they did this during the 2002 World Cup, with no observed side effects.

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