World Champion in Drug Scandal10-12-2010
Marta Dominguez, the world steeplechase champion, is involved in a doping probe
Spanish police questioned world steeplechase champion Marta Dominguez yesterday as they made several arrests in a major anti-doping operation. Dominguez, winner of the 5,000 metres at the 2001 and 2003 World championships in addition to the 2009 steeplechase, was seen entering a Guardia Civil police station in northern Spain's Palencia.
Interior ministry sources put the number of detainees at 14, saying they included top athletes, coaches and medical staff. Ministry sources added that police had taken away "bags of blood" and "laboratory utensils for blood transfusion", along with "substances banned in sport".
The 35-year-old Dominguez had been detained for questioning, according to public radio station RNE. She is accused of trafficking in banned substances and money laundering, it said. Those detained included Dominguez's coach, Cesar Perez, and another trainer, Manuel Pascua Piqueras, a court official added.
Police searched homes and business across the country in several cities such as Madrid, the Mediterranean port of Alicante and Las Palmas in the Canary Islands as part of 'Operation Galgo', Spanish media said.
Dominguez's residence, as well as the homes of former mountain biker Alberto Leon and sports physician Eufemiano Fuentes, were also reportedly searched.
Fuentes was accused of being the mastermind of a vast blood doping network after a May 2006 police raid on his Madrid laboratory allegedly uncovered doping products and 100 bags of blood products. Among riders caught up in that investigation, dubbed 'Operation Puerto', were former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich and Giro d'Italia winner Ivan Basso.
The anti-doping operation comes after the International Cycling Union in September provisionally suspended Spain's Alberto Contador after a small amount of the muscle-building drug clenbuterol was found in a blood sample taken during this year's Tour de France race, which he won for the third time.
Dominguez, 35, is not taking part in the 2011 season because she is pregnant. She had planned to return in 2012 for the London Olympics.The Spanish Athletics Federation called for the presumption of innocence to be respected "until their guilt is reliably proven".
"If this happens, the federation will punish without hesitation, in accordance with existing laws, those who cheated during their preparation or participation in competitions," it added in a statement.
Spain's former European 10000m champion Chema Martinez, who also had Perez as a coach, said it was important not to rush to judgement. "It is a delicate moment, we have to wait. I want to be prudent, we have to let the police do their jobs," she told the sports television channel MarcaTV.
Despite the wave of suspensions, Spain's secretary of state for sports, Jaime Lissavetzky, said in October the country's doping problem was "not greater or smaller than in the rest of the world. It is a global problem," he told a conference on sports doping.
By: Giles Brown
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