Perez offered contract by Relax

Vuelta runner-up Santiago Perez has been discussing a possible deal with the modest Relax-Fuenlabrad

Vuelta runner-up Santiago Perez has been discussing a possible deal with the modest Relax-Fuenlabrad
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Vuelta runner-up Santiago Perez has been offered a place on the Relax-Fuenlabrada team in the coming season, but only as long as he does not receive any suspension stemming from the charge of blood doping that resulted in him being released by Phonak at the end of last season. Perez tested positive for blood doping last October during tests undertaken by the International Cycling Union in Switzerland. Relax directeur sportif Jesus Suarez Cueva told AS that he had spoken to the Asturian rider about the deal and that both sides were happy with it in principle. "The contract would be automatically cancelled if a suspension was imposed on him," said Suarez Cueva. "The rider knows these conditions and agrees to them in principle. We still have to reach a financial agreement, but that is clearly not going to be very high as we are a modest team and we can't offer much." In making this offer to Perez, who won three stages at the Vuelta, Relax are taking advantage of the introduction of a new ethical code for ProTour teams. This code prevents those squads at the top level of the sport from taking on riders who are involved in ongoing doping cases. Relax, though, are hoping to gain continental team status and as such would not be bound by the ethical code. Where Relax's cheeky plan might fall down is that no team will be able to field a rider under investigation in a ProTour race such as the Vuelta, the event that is likely to be Relax's main target of the season. Questioned by AS on this point, Suarez Cueva admitted he did not know what might happen if Relax tried to field Perez at the Vuelta, assuming the rider's case had still not been concluded by next August. "Perhaps Santi wouldn't be able to ride events such as that. But I can't see how it is logical to sideline a rider if he has not been sanctioned," said Suarez Cueva. "But if the deal is not possible, then we won't go through with it, although we are going to try to do so. He's a great rider who has had a lot of bad luck." The Spanish federation is considering Perez's case at the moment, but it is not yet known when a decision will be made on any possible suspension. In the meantime, Perez is taking legal action in Spain's civil courts in order to allow him to compete while he remains free of any potential suspension.
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