Police in Catalonia, north-east Spain, have dismantled a network that trafficked in performance-enhancing drugs, arresting seven amateur sportsmen, they announced today.
Among the substances seized was clenbuterol, the drug for which three-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador tested positive last year before being cleared of any wrongdoing by Spain's cycling federation this week.
"Seven people were arrested, sportsmen from different disciplines – marathon runners, triathletes and bodybuilders," a spokeswoman for the Catalan police said. "They're amateur sportsmen rather than professionals."
The operation began in December based on information received from a professional cyclist. The rider, who wasn't named, received an email "from a person he didn't know offering doping substances," the spokeswoman said. No cyclists have been arrested, but police have yet to disclose who was being supplied with the drugs.
The suspects, arrested throughout the Catalonia region, handled "the importation and distribution of substances normally used in sports centres such as anabolic steroids, clenbuterol, growth hormones and others," police said.
The gang also used "an exclusive supplier" of the banned boosting agent EPO (erythropoietin). Police carried out searches of five premises. The seven suspects are to be presented before a judge in the Catalan town of Olot later today.
In addition to the Contador case, several doping scandals have erupted in Spanish sport in recent years. The most recent, Operation Galgo, led to the arrest of 14 people in December, implicating athletics star Marta Dominguez.