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Liberty Seguros team manager Manolo Saiz has been released by Spain's Guardia Civil after being detained and questioned as part of an investigation into suspected doping practices. Saiz was detained at Liberty's service course HQ in the Madrid suburbs on Tuesday.
According to Spanish news agency EFE, Saiz is reported to have been held on suspicion of being a 'client' of a doping operation rather than for being one of the people behind it.
Four other people detained yesterday as part of the same investigation remain in police custody, including former ONCE and Kelme team doctor Eufemiano Fuentes and Comunitat Valenciana assistant director Jos Ignacio Labarta.
A Guardia Civil unit that specialises in drug-related offences is still believed to be analysing suspicious material found during the search of six premises on Tuesday, including two apartments owned by Fuentes. Among products reportedly found were substances used for doping by athletes, as well as equipment used to transfuse and store blood.
EFE also said that video tapes of people related to professional sport entering and leaving some of these premises were being studied.
Meanwhile, Liberty Seguros Group president Luis Bonell has said that "the team is still in existence" following this latest setback. However, he added that the international insurance company is studying the situation carefully and will decide on a course of action depending on what happens in the coming days.
There were fears that the insurance company would withdraw from sponsorship of Saiz's team when it was confirmed earlier that Roberto Heras had tested positive for using the blood-booster EPO during last year's Vuelta. That incident followed soon after two other riders on the team had been prevented from starting ProTour races because of elevated red blood cell counts.
While Liberty's backing is set to continue, the Pyrenean scouting mission planned for this weekend by team leader Alexandre Vinokourov, Alberto Contador and Andrei Kashechkin looks certain to be cancelled and rescheduled for some time in June.
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