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As the fall-out from the Roberto Heras EPO affair continues to spread across Spanish cycling, the country's two leading sports publications have today taken diverging approaches to the story. Marca is basically backing Heras until the result of his B test are released on November 21 (see separate story), while AS has used the affair to continue its drive to stamp out what it perceives as widespread doping in the sport and to break the law of silence that holds sway over riders and other team staff.
Former Kelme pro Jesus Manzano, one rider who did speak out about doping within the sport back in March 2004, is interviewed by AS today, and says that he is not at all surprised about the news of Heras's positive test. "I'm not shocked that they are saying Roberto is positive, and I wouldn't be if it was any other rider," Manzano tells AS. "What is clear is that it is not just Roberto doing this. Why aren't the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth-placed riders speaking out? This is a world of hypocrites. and the level of hypocrisy means that I'm not upset by what is happening."
Manzano reveals that he learned the news about Heras a few days before it came out in the media from "someone who has a close link with the Liberty team". To a large extent, Manzano feels that the latest news vindicates what he said back in 2004. "They said that I was a rotten apple, but I now believe that the whole tree is rotten. And cleaning all this up will be very difficult because we're not just talking about Roberto. Let others speak out as well," he says.
Manzano makes reference to Liberty having to withdraw two riders from major events earlier this year when they were found to be above the permitted haematocrit level of 50%. "When you train a lot your haematocrit goes down, so how is it possible for someone to go to the Dauphin or the Giro with a level of 52%?" he asks. "How do they get it up to this level? With EPO. But it's the UCI's fault."
Why is this Manzano is asked? "Because they could sort it out very easily. They could take that cyclist to Lausanne, get him to spend a year training and see what happens. He won't end up at 52%, but at 38%. He won't even be able to get out of bed. But it's all a farce. The only ones who are getting rich are some of the doctors, and not the cyclists. Heras earns good money, but others don't earn anything like as much. I have a witness who said that one doctor was asking for six million pesetas (£30,000) to use his preparation methods. Will they be asking for six million for just aspirin and mineral salts?"
Asked if he was surprised by the positive test given by another former team-mate and Vuelta winner, Aitor Gonzalez, Manzano responds: "Do you really think that you can win the Vuelta with a bar of chocolate and a loaf of bread? . The tree is rotten, right down to its roots."
Manzano also speaks about his own life with wife Marina and one-year-old daughter Marina, saying things are going well for him despite the loss of his job in construction which has left him claiming unemployment benefit for the past five months. He adds that he has hung up for bike for good, explaining: "I would like to go out on my mountain bike, but my knee problems stop me. The cortisone injections I had there are taking their toll."
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