In recent months much has been reported about the use (and abuse) of ‘Therapeutic Use Excemptions’. It’s not new but it is the latest chapter in a sequence of doping dramas that have enveloped sport over the years.
One person who was vocal about the use of TUEs to allow an athlete to use cortisone was Jörg Jaksche.
“There is actually not real proof required by the UCI or the WADA for what [the TUE] is [for],” he told RIDE at the end of September.
“They actually trust the team doctors,” he laughed.
“You say you have something or your team doctor says, ‘This rider A, B, C… has a problem with his knee or he has an allergy…’ and they get the TUE granted, yep.”
Jaksche knows how it worked, because he used TUEs to cheat when he was a professional cyclist. It was one of many ways he enhanced his performance on the bike in a career that officially came to and end in 2007 when he confessed his sins and never raced again.
A year before that, in 2006, he was poised to start the Tour de France as part of the Liberty Seguros team. He didn’t get to the start line. The fall-out from an investigation known as Operacion Puerto began to take effect. His team was sidelined and no one from the Spanish squad would race the Tour 10 years ago.
We have spoken with Jaksche about his doping and a host of other topics and posted a clip with his comments on YouTube (see below).
In 2016, to mark the 10th anniversary of Operacion Puerto, RIDE published an interview with Jaksche about the doctor involved in the scandal and other associated topics.
That was in RIDE 72, a magazine which is no longer on sale. The interview was one of five large features in the issue that was on sale in June.
It is long, but interesting and so we’ve decided to publish it online to give people who haven’t read the magazine some insights into the culture of doping that had existed in cycling…
* * * * *
Legacy of a doping scandal: what has been learned?
Interview with Jörg Jaksche
It’s been 10 years since one of sport’s biggest scandals erupted. It implicated hundreds of athletes but only cyclists were named. We speak with one of the riders involved and get a full explanation of the bizarre details of the doping that went on before Operaciòn Puerto.
A lot of detail has been learned about the way cycling was not so long ago. While there were once vehement denials, there has since been a succession of athletes who have been willing to explain what transpired at a particularly turbulent time. When a laboratory in Madrid was raided 10 years ago, it sent the sporting world into a frenzy and the fall-out was significant. The images of blood bags being carried out of the lab by Spain’s Guardia Civil were shocking to those who believed that sport was more pure. In the intervening years, however, we have become immune to surprise.
Entire books have been written on the subject and there’s been a wealth of extensive commentary about the work of Dr Eufemiano Fuentes and his cohort. Many of those implicated still deny any involvement but Jörg Jaksche decided years ago to own up, explain his mistakes, and help others understand the intricate detail of the doping he was involved in as a client of the Spanish doctor.
On 23 May 2016 it was the 10th anniversary of cycling team manager Manolo Saiz being arrested in Madrid, effectively beginning what we now know as ‘Operaciòn Puerto’. We recently spoke to Jaksche who was one of many on ‘The List’ of Eufemiano Fuentes.
This was a case that ultimately led Jaksche to becoming an ex-bike rider. He’s studying in Sydney and he is reminded of the many legacies of Operaciòn Puerto 10 years on.
Some of the story told by Jaksche has been told before but his account is comprehensive. He insisted that no topic was off-limits and that he would answer all the questions to the best of his knowledge. He’ll be 40 in July and he knows his racing days are long behind him but the lessons of his time in the sport are significant. The things that happened in the peloton during his time as a professional were rank and he takes little pride in knowing what he did – but there are lessons that can be learned and the important thing is to remember how dire things were.
The topic of doping is omnipresent in sport and we hope this story will explain details many refrained from telling when it was still being investigated by the authorities.
We will present this feature on Operaciòn Puerto and its legacies as a series and encourage readers to write in and ask any questions. You’ll find extras from this report on our site (ridemedia.com.au), including features from the past and more of Jörg Jaksche’s explanation. In the meantime, here is a first-hand review of a doping scandal that threw cycling into disarray even though athletes from other sports escaped without prosecution or even a sanction.
* * * * *
Jörg Jaksche was a rider with the Spanish Liberty Seguros team at the time of the arrest. Our long conversation begins with the obvious question: can he offer a quick summary of his involvement with Fuentes and with Manolo Saiz?
“Yeah. Actually in cycling there are always some names out there especially at that time (2006) when doping was widespread and everyone knew that you had to enhance your performance somehow. With most of the teams, [the doping] was organised by the teams – so there were all these names like Ferrari, Cecchini, Fuentes… I heard something about Fuentes because he was working for Kelme.
“The guys from Kelme were extremely strong but very often they also tested positive which was an answer to the question of why they were so strong.
“Then I was with Bjarne Riis in CSC and then I went back to ONCE that then turned into Liberty Seguros.
“Manolo called me at the end of 2004. I remember when it was because it was one of those days when the tsunami was, around Christmas. He called me at that time and said, ‘Listen, for next year, 2005, we have a new doctor.’ Our old doctor from ONCE, Pedro Celaya – who also got punished in the whole Armstrong story – went back to US Postal. Then we had a new doctor, and the doctor was Fuentes.
“Then I got a call from Fuentes a day later, that I should ‘come down to Gran Canaria’, he lives there and works there, and we’d have a talk about the program. At that time you knew already that training was very important and I think we also trained highly scientifically, it was not like they now would say, ‘These guys didn’t train 10 years ago they were just doing doping…’ or whatever. ‘Now we are highly scientific and we do marginal gains…’ or whatever. We did that, the same stuff.”
Jaksche leads the discussion. He is in the RIDE Media office on a Sunday in April. The German speaks a range of languages and is now living mainly in Sydney while studying business at the University of NSW. But he returns to his base in Austria at the end of the year to do some skiing, his first sporting love. He’s recently returned to regularly riding his bike but only after a significant hiatus since he quit racing following his confession in 2007.
During his career, Jaksche won Paris-Nice in 2004 and raced with a total of seven teams: Polti (1997 and 1998), Telekom (1999 and 2000), ONCE-Eroski (2001-2003), CSC (2004), Liberty Seguros (2005-2006), Astana (2006), and Tinkoff Credit Systems (2007). Then he stopped.
Jaksche began doping in 1998 and did so for most of his career. Still, before he resorted to doping he did train.
“Everyone did the max they could,” he continues. “We did aerodynamic tests. We did performance tests. Not at ONCE, but we had some internal nutritionists so it was probably not 100 percent scientific and perfect but I would say 88 percent. The only difference now is that some teams have a full-time chef at the races, and we didn’t.
“There is not so much of a big difference.
“Within 10 years of training, the methods have not changed that much. Genetics doesn’t change that much so that you can say now, ‘These days the reasons why they’re racing as fast as at the time when doping was highly involved in the sport, it’s purely because of training’.
“In 10 years there is not a genetic difference in mankind. And with training there is an improvement but first you said, ‘Okay and eight percent improvement by PEDs’ and now you say, ‘No PEDs but also eight percent improvement because we train better’. That doesn’t work but anyway…”
He tends to get distracted but we continue the discussion by returning to the theme of Operaciòn Puerto’s anniversary, so Jaksche returns to the original question: “In 2005 I met Fuentes in Gran Canaria. He picked me up from the airport and he had this old LandCruiser, like a really old car which, in Germany, would never have passed through any road registration: no chance. It was all a little bit awkward.”
It’s interesting, I note, because a lot of people know the name but don’t know the aesthetic of Fuentes. So I ask: what does he look like? How does he present?
“He’s like the typical Spanish guy who you’d say has an academic background, a money background. But he would not portray it in the sense that, you could see he has high quality clothing, very expensive shoes, but he would drive an old car. He would have millions in the bank account but not really portray that to the public.
“It’s a little bit like the Spanish way. Under the radar.
“He had a very old Porsche that he bought himself in the 1960s or 1970s and he was cruising around in this Porsche through Madrid and also carrying the blood bags in his old Porsche. It was red. He said to me, when there was a joke about the blood bags, ‘I’ve always loved the colour red…’ because he was doing what he was doing, handling blood.
“So he had this under-the-radar look, and I can tell a story about that later. Or should I tell you now?”
It takes little encouragement: “Go on,” I reply.
“So, there were two methods for how you could do blood doping at the time. One was the normal blood bags which stay in the fridge for a month. It means: you go to Fuentes, you drop one bag of blood, which is 500 millilitres and then within a month what happens is that your body produces the amount of blood that you lost… after that month you have to exchange that blood bag because it’s just the regular blood back, it’s going to be okay for a month in the fridge but then you have to use the blood bag, reinject it.
“After that month, what we did is: we took one litre of blood out and put the old blood back in. So you have two blood bags, one in the fridge and the other which you used to reinject your old blood. It was in order to get two or three blood bags but you had to calculate it in a way.
“This method was very cheap. If you didn’t want to spend a lot of money you had to do these calculations so you ended up with three blood bags at the beginning of the Tour de France. You had to exchange it always. There was always a little bit of difficulty because you had to get the new blood out and the old blood, from the fridge, you had to put it back. It was a bit of a mess, I would say.
“Then the other method was what he called ‘Siberia’. You could, in October or November… just drop your blood with him and then he would deep freeze it. But the Siberia method was very expensive.”
And, I ask, a lot of risk? Or not? He shrugs. “Hmmm.”
So ‘Siberia’, I reiterate, is to freeze the blood which you can’t do, obviously, in an ordinary fridge freezer.
“You had to centrifuge it,” says Jaksche before offering a full summary of the process. “He had a centrifuge and then the two parts [of blood] were divided and he had to put whatever additive in it to keep it stable and then deep freeze it at minus-80 degrees or something. It was more work.
“The other way was just: get it out, close it and put it in the fridge. [Siberia] was a lot of work and there was a lot of money invested, he put a lot of money into the fridge and centrifuges. The system had to be refinanced so he asked a lot but the normal blood bag, I would say, was more of a cheap treatment.”
Which transfusions did you do? You did Siberia?
“At the beginning,” replies Jaksche, “I did the cheap one because I didn’t really know how it worked and it was too much for me – too much information because I never did that stuff. And then I figured out, in my second year before the whole thing exploded, I said, ‘Okay, I’ll do the Siberia method’ because I didn’t want to be flying every month to Madrid and doing that stuff that’s just so stressful.
“You fly in and then the same day you fly out. And you have an arm like this…” and he gestures: swollen.
“Anyway, the other method is: October, November, January… you drop your blood and you have, whatever, five blood bags and you can use it when you want.”
These have been ‘infused’ with EPO? You’ve been taking EPO during the course of October, November, December?
“Nah, no.” Jaksche agrees to go back to basics on how it all works and he doesn’t mind going into the full detail he knows. This is not a scientist’s analogy, rather it’s the view of a rider who had been banking his blood with Fuentes 10 years ago. We can explore the medical benefits later but, for the sake of the telling, the explanation continues. “Actually, your body is already producing so much of its own EPO.”
Okay. So it’s just centrifuge: old-fashioned blood doping?
“Yeah. This blood never got treated or anything.
“EPO only works in your body when you’re alive: it does not work in a blood bag. We would not inject EPO in the blood bag, nothing like that… When your brain can send information to where it’s produced… so when you ‘dropped’ the blood for the blood bags – extracted the blood – your own production of EPO was already so high that additional EPO injections wouldn’t have helped.
“This is the reason they had this new formula with the biological passport… To explain it easily, if your hemoglobin is high and reticulocytes are low – and your hemoglobin, a week before had been very low – and reticulocytes go down, it means that, most probably, you had taken a blood bag, your body says, ‘Ah, I’m getting blood. I don’t have to produce my own…’ so the reticulocytes fall down.
“The other way around, if you have an extremely high production of reticulocytes, and your hemoglobin is quite low it means it could be that you’re just doing EPO in order to get your hemoglobin high: what carries oxygen in order to be performing well. The other option is, for example, if you have high hemoglobin and it goes down within two weeks or whatever, and your reticulocytes go high then you know someone gave blood away.
“In other words, you can more or less work out a little bit of the structure of what people are doing.
“So, anyway, back to Fuentes. I had to go to extract my blood with him and he didn’t come for a while so I waited. Eventually a person arrived and he had a beard and John Lennon glasses and a strange haircut. I was like, ‘I know this guy but I don’t know who it is…’ and then he came over to me and it was Fuentes. He was incognito.
“I was like, ‘What did you do with yourself?’
“He had just come from a meeting with Baxter, they produce blood bags. They had a new grade of bag which, instead of lasting four weeks, lasts eight weeks. It was unveiled at a meeting of haematologists in Madrid and he was there, sitting in the last row and he explained the story: ‘They gave some samples out and we could just take a look at the bags…’ it was like in school where everyone touches something and then passes it on.
“So, after telling the story, he just opened his bag and pulled them out and announced: ‘And here it is!’ He just stole it. His life was always like that.”
During the telling, Jaksche laughs at the absurdity of it all and clearly recalls the comic value of Fuentes’ ways. There was theft and disguise and doping, and it all seemed quite normal to the rider. His relationship with the doctor was an odd one yet, despite his ways, the pair got along well. “If he was sitting here,” Jaksche says of Fuentes, “we would have a lot of fun. He is highly educated and very intelligent. He’s not a butcher. He has a very formal way in how he behaves and he has all these amazing stories.
“For example, there was a famous Italian Classics rider who wanted to do blood transfusions… This rider went to Madrid with a friend and they thought about doing a direct transfusion. They had their blood work all done and checked that everything worked out fine, that no one was HIV or whatever. It all worked and they did it in a very military style, lying next to each other, donating blood.
“There can be subgroups that are not compatible; you can go into anaphylactic shock and that’s what happened: the Classics rider went into shock in the apartment of Fuentes. He was apparently close to dying from taking his friend’s blood. Fuentes was laughing about it as he told the story, ‘Oh, what a wuss! He can win races but he cannot even stand the same blood group of his friend. What is up with him?’ Stuff like this.
“Sometimes when he told his stories you would say, it is not really funny because it is morbid but on the other side his life was already so strange – so let it be funny.
“Ultimately, he was a nice guy. He was one of those guys who would run a red light just to see what may happen.”
* * * * *
Situation on the day the scandal broke…
The nature of this discussion led us in many directions. But the aim of the talk with Jörg Jaksche was to keep it centred on the 10th anniversary of Operaciòn Puerto. So, I wanted to know, what was the atmosphere like for him on the day that the news broke? Can he talk through the detail of 23 May 2006? Where was he when he heard Manolo had been arrested? And what were the other consequences of that? Did he wonder: have they caught Fuentes? Have they found my blood…? What was it like on that day?
“We were gathering in Santander (Spain) and it was only the core team, the people who would surely be doing the Tour de France. There was me, Joseba Beloki, Alexandre Vinokourov, Alberto Contador, Marcus Serrano and Igor Gonzales de Galdeano. We were in a hotel and the next day we should have flown to the Pyrenees to do the climbs that were to be in the Tour.
“Every team with a potential contender for GC – and, for us, it was Vinokourov. I flew into Santander, we went for a training ride and it was about 6.00pm when I got a call from Alejandro, our bus driver. He had known Fuentes for a long time because he was the driver of Kelme so there was a long relationship. I think he knew, more or less, who was a client of Fuentes within the team, or who was sent by Manolo to work with Fuentes – to dope with Fuentes.”
Like so much of the conversation, it’s a casual reference for Jaksche. “Working”, “doping”… it’s the same thing in relation to this patient/doctor relationship. But, I wonder, it wasn’t like everyone on the team had gone and done blood transfusions together. “It was never together,” he says.
“It was not really 100 percent open but most of the guys knew. At the end of the day, it was a bit like a family. Igor, Joseba, Marcos – we’d known each other for six years. We’d ridden together for most of that time and had a lot of trust. We would not really talk about it but we knew exactly what was happening and no one tried to bullshit the other person.
“There is a lot of bullshitting in cycling where people would say they’d never do something… but in our case there was a mutual respect and we would not talk about it, only in the case of an emergency.
“Anyway, Alejandro called me and said, ‘Hey, El Gordo and the doctor got arrested’ – ‘The Fat One’ and the doctor.
“With the reference to The Fat One, I knew exactly who it was but I didn’t know which doctor because we had three on the team. I said, ‘Alejandro, you mean the guy from Madrid?’ because I didn’t want to name Fuentes. And he said, ‘Yeah, the guy from Madrid.’
“I was like, ‘Oh shit!’
“I first thought, ‘It’s probably taxation or whatever…’ Then I thought, ‘It must be about doping and blood bags.’
“The reason why they actually got Manolo and Fuentes is complicated. I still had a small hope; I was wondering why they met because in 2005 Manolo himself stopped any personal cooperation with Fuentes because Isidro Nozal, one of our riders, got tested. He was not positive but he had a hematocrit above 50 and he got punished: two weeks [suspension], but there were a lot of issues about that.
“Fuentes and Manolo then started fighting about money. There were some debts outstanding so, in 2006, Fuentes was not our official doctor: it meant that Manolo did not pay for the service but he said, ‘If you want to continue, I have no other option to offer you (as a rider). I’m searching for another doctor but currently we cannot do it [as a team]. I can give you more money but you have to search for your solution. And if you go to Fuentes, I’m fine with that but I don’t want to have to deal with him.’
“For him it was okay if we went and paid with our own money but he didn’t want to give him the money direct.”
Manolo would be as upfront as saying, ‘I’ll increase the salary but your medical expenses need to come out of that’? “Exactly. He didn’t want the nuisance of giving the money to Fuentes. He felt better if he gave it to us and we gave it to him. That was Manolo, sometimes he was very stubborn.”
As we know, the cycling world operates in strange ways. Never mind the fact that this was all happening eight years after the so-called Festina Affair broke just before the 1998 Tour de France. According to some commentary, that was when systematic doping was apparently ‘abolished’. Jaksche doesn’t flinch: “In every team I raced with there was a perfectly organised doping system.”
Maybe not everyone was involved in the doping but the option certainly existed. Jaksche is open about his doping and he’s got nothing more to lose. He has explained his case in intricate detail in numerous languages over the years and he’s comfortable talking about it now. There have been times when he denied it but that ceased in 2007 when he decided that the only way forward was with honesty.
But, back to the events of May 2006, as experienced by one of the riders involved with Dr Fuentes…
“I talked with Manolo at Liège-Bastogne-Liège about Fuentes,” continues Jaksche, “because Vinokourov was not going well and he was in his first year with [the team]. He was complaining to me, ‘Oh there is not such an organised system like in T-Mobile with blood transfusions and everything. What’s happening here? I cannot go fast.’
“So then I said to Manolo, ‘Hey, just by the way, how is our preparation for the Tour?’
“He said, ‘Aargh, yeah I have to talk to Fuentes.’
“This was the reason why they actually met [in Madrid on 23 May 2006]. Vinokourov was not going well and he pushed Manolo to talk to Fuentes. The actual reason Manolo got arrested was: Vinokourov.
“But I didn’t know that Manolo had talked to Fuentes and this was the moment they got caught, it was the moment when Manolo paid him back the debt from 2005 and Fuentes said, ‘I will work for your team again – apart from the ‘private’ riders I have now…’ like me. ‘But just pay me the debt.’ At that moment, they were caught.”
Saiz was arrested nearby the clinic of Fuentes in Madrid while carrying a large sum of cash. Eventually the details of the police action and the nature of the doctor’s work would be revealed but at the time it was unfolding, there was still a lot of clandestine discussion taking place. Jaksche got the call from the bus driver, he realised that it was Dr Fuentes. And he realised, obviously, that the shit was going to hit the fan. So what did he do? “I took a long shower.
“You know when you do something and you’re like, ‘Oh… this is not happening!’ I was telling myself, ‘It should work out.’ ‘It’s not a problem.’ In Spain, I thought, even the prime minister takes EPO, it was so widespread. It was like taking cocaine, illegal but common.
“That was the reason I originally thought it was about tax because I was so sure that doping was not a problem in Spain. I could walk into a pharmacy and buy more or less whatever I wanted. They wouldn’t care. That’s how it was.”
It’s a common story of the times: doping was possible because, quite simply, the procurement of the actual drugs wasn’t complicated. In our discussion, however, I reiterate the concept because I just want to get my head around that picture: you go into a chemist, you say ‘My name is Jörg, I’m from Germany. I want EPO.’
“Yes. I did this in Mallorca in a pharmacy in 2004.”
No script. They didn’t take your details. You just buy and it and the guy gives it to you like a normal transaction?
“You just needed to have cash and then they are happy. If there is a pharmacy in the outskirts of Madrid or wherever and it’s struggling to get turnover and someone comes in with 3,000 euros and says, ‘How much EPO would you sell me.’ They’d say, ‘How much do you want?’
“This was happening in Spain. It is why all these doctors came from Spain that had their net of pharmacists where you could go. They knew the ones and they’d just tell you, ‘Go to this pharmacy and they will sell that stuff to you…’
“Back to my immediate reaction to the arrest. After my shower I was like everyone else, nervous. We had dinner.”
It was late in the day. The seven of them were on a team training camp. So did they talk amongst themselves about it? Did you say, ‘Okay boys, what are we going to do?’
“All the guys were like, ‘Oh shit…!’ And then the next day Marca came out, the Spanish newspaper, and the front page was ‘Demasiada Sangre’ – ‘too much blood’.
“We were in the hotel and the people read Marca and they know we’re from Liberty Seguros. ‘Oh shit. It’s not good.’ But anyway, I flew home the next day. I said, ‘I don’t want to go anywhere to ride my bike, it’s senseless. I don’t want to go to France, I just want to go home to Austria.
“I was so happy to leave Spain because I thought they must have a lot. If they arrested Manolo for what they did, there must be a lot more. That said, I once asked Fuentes: ‘What you’re doing, is this actually legal or is it illegal?’ And he said to me, ‘From a moral point of view, if you’re talking about sports, it is probably not okay. On the other hand, what is ethics in professional sports? Everyone cheats…’
“From a legal perspective he said, ‘Not a problem.’ He was actually right. The case against him was ridiculous in my point of view, it was a waste of money. But in May 2006, I was like, ‘Oh shit, I don’t think he was right in his evaluation of the situation.’
“I flew home and was getting a lot of messages. Then it was time for the Tour de Suisse, where I got third (overall)…
“I told lies to everyone: ‘Oh, I’ve not tested positive…’ but my blood bag was there and it was all very obvious.”
* * * * *
There would be massive ramifications in the professional peloton because of the seizure of the blood that had been stored, either in ‘Siberia’ or in the standard fridges in Fuentes’ clinic. In the immediate aftermath of the arrests, however, it was status quo: many of the best riders of that time kept on winning. After a short stint in Austria, Jaksche was back on the bike and racing. There was residual fitness and although he wasn’t able to use the banked blood, he and others from The List were continuing to dominate.
Remember who was ahead of him on GC of the 2006 Tour de Suisse in June? “Also two Fuentes clients,” said Jaksche during his explanation about events of 10 years ago. “Jan Ullrich and Koldo Gil.
“There’s actually a funny story about that: later in the court case in Madrid, Fuentes had this bad-arse lawyer who tried to destroy my credibility. He said to me, ‘How is the Tour de Suisse? Is this a hard race?’
“I told him, ‘Yeah, it can be hard.’ And he said, ‘Why?’ ‘Well,’ I told him, ‘because there are climbs…’
“It was like a conversation on an elementary school level. But I knew where he was going when he picked the Tour de Suisse and asked about how hard it was. ‘It depends on what kind of physical condition you are in… it can be hard but if you win it, then it’s probably easier for you than the others.’ It was a circular discussion.”
To paraphrase the charges against Fuentes at the time, it was that his practice put at risk the health of his clients. The laws have changed since and doping for performance gains is construed as fraud but in 2006 the prosecutor need to show that what happened in Fuentes’ clinic was dangerous. Jaksche admits to having good physical condition but his mind was in turmoil and motivation at an all-time low.
In the trial the lawyer continued his questioning and “he wanted to bring the point that I was also doping with someone else so Fuentes was not responsible for possible public health issues in regards to me; he wanted to suggest that I was also risking my life with another doctor.
“Then the judge said, ‘Can you please come to your point? What do you want from the testimony?’
“The lawyer said, ‘Can you please explain to me how you got third at the Tour de Suisse because it’s obviously a very hard and important race and you had your blood bags stored in Madrid and no one could have them because they were in the hands of the police.’
“I said, ‘Yeah, it was more like a club race.’
“He said, ‘What do you mean by club race?’
“I told him, ‘Yeah, it was a bit like The Fuentes Club because no one had their blood bags actually!’
“There was Ullrich first: client of Fuentes. Koldo Gil second: client of Fuentes. Me third: client of Fuentes. Fourth – Angel Vicioso: client of Fuentes… at the top of the GC there were riders who were all former clients so it was again a level playing field because no one had their blood bags.
“At this moment of the trial the judge, she was smiling.
I looked at the lawyer of Fuentes and then at Fuentes himself: what kind of laywer did you hire?!”
The trial lasted years and included numerous statements that were damning, certainly in relation to the reputation of pro cycling. Meanwhile all other sports denied involvement and of the list of 200 names, it is still only cyclists who are confirmed clients of Dr Eufemiano Fuentes. It leaves around 75 percent of the codenames unaccounted for. Herein lies some of the irony. For all the kerfuffle that was made about the bags of blood stored in the clinic, for all the legal action, for all the bravado of the Guardia Civil, it would have little effect on anyone other than those with links to cycling.
Jaksche didn’t enjoy the experience of having to testify but he stopped with his denials relatively quickly. And with time to reflect he realise the absurdity of the situation.
“The whole court case was like a slapstick,” he later says after having gone over it umpteen times in his mind.
“But anyway, I did the Tour de Suisse, got third and then I didn’t want to go to the Tour. My name was a little bit ‘out there’ and I didn’t want to do the Tour de France because I was frightened I’d get arrested.
“I initially went to the Tour and then I said, ‘Guys, listen: I don’t want to ride. I just want to be at home.’ The team did the official presentation but I went home before that.”
Operaciòn Puerto netted a glut of casualties just before the Tour’s Grand Départ in 2006. Jaksche ruled himself out and flew home. Six of the nine Liberty Seguros riders who were to race the Tour were said to be on The List, even though this assumption was made by marrying up riders with certain codenames in the Fuentes file. And other big stars were ejected between the team presentation and on the Thursday and the prologue in Strasbourg on the Saturday. This included the champion of the 2006 Giro d’Italia, Ivan Basso; and leader of the T-Mobile team, Jan Ullrich; and the fourth-place finisher in 2005, Francisco Mancebo.
There were strong implications for anyone who was even referenced as possibly having a link to the list – as long as, of course, they were cyclists. Jaksche knew it was going to affect the Tour but he also began to realise that his whole career was soon to be finished. “We tried to do something in order to get the team to the start,” he explained, “but as it was suspected that we had been part of Operaciòn Puerto, we were not allowed to do it.
“In the end, our team didn’t do it. Manolo was in prison. It was all a big mess.
“Everyone who was on the Fuentes list was sent home,” Jaksche explained. “I’d already made my decision. What else could you do? My career was not really over but it was the beginning of the end that day.”
– By Rob Arnold