Heras affair raises questions

Roberto Heras is the fourth major name to fall foul of the drug testers either during recent Vueltas

Roberto Heras is the fourth major name to fall foul of the drug testers either during recent Vueltas

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With 12 days to go until the results of Roberto Heras's B sample are revealed to the rider and his Liberty Seguros team following Monday's revelation of his positive A test for EPO at the Vuelta, attention in Spain has switched the wider problem of doping in cycling. Vuelta director Victor Cordero has spoken about the damage caused to his race by the new doping scandal, while AS cycling correspondent Gonzalez Linares has launched a fierce attack on Liberty team director Manolo Saiz, calling for him to take responsibility for recent problems that have hit the team.

Cordero admitted he and his fellow race directors "looked stupid because all this has come out a month and a half after the race." He was unable to explain why there was such a delay in the results being transmitted to the Heras and the Liberty team (the positive test was taken on September 17 and its result not relayed until October 27), but thought that some of the problem was down to the world championships taking place in the days after and this slowing the whole testing procedure down.

But his main concern is with the long-term damage inflicted on the Vuelta, especially after the news about Heras was preceded by as positive test for another recent Vuelta winner Aitor Gonzalez, as well as Tyler Hamilton's positive test for blood doping during last year's race. To this distinguished trio must also be added the name of 2004 Vuelta runner-up Santiago Perez, who also tested positive for blood doping during a surprise control undertaken in Switzerland after last year's race.

"It's clear there will be consequences, but it's better to suffer damage by being honest than by being stupid," said Cordero. "In spite of everything, I'd like to send a message of optimism. We have heard the comments of [Liberty team president] Manuel Pi¤era, who said that those around the rider must be punished. With thinking like that, it's clear there is a future for us."

Gonzalez Linares pulled no punches as he took aim at the Liberty team director, declaring "Manolo Saiz is an ambitious director, who plays hard and without scruples". Gonzalez Linares called on Saiz to be removed from the team following the news about Heras and previous incidents with Isidro Nozal and Nuno Ribeiro, who were prevented from starting the Dauphin Libr and the Giro respectively earlier this season because of elevated red blood cell counts. "Total culpability for a positive test can't fall on the rider," concluded Gonzalez Linares.

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