Perez: No new deal with Phonak
Santiago Perez confirms that he was dropped by Phonak last week together with Tyler Hamilton, and ma
PICTURE BY LAVUELTA.COM Vuelta runner-up Santiago Perez has revealed that he has suffered a similar fate to Phonak team leader Tyler Hamilton and was dropped by the Swiss team prior to this week’s final ProTour appeals. Like Hamilton, Perez has tested positive for blood doping, in the Spaniard’s case at an out-of-competition control done in Lausanne on October 5. Speaking to Marca, Perez confirmed that, also like Hamilton, he had been informed by Phonak last week that he was being released. Unlike the American, Perez did not have a contract with Phonak beyond the end of this year, although negotiations were begun to improve his current deal after his success at the Vuelta. After making clear that he had been advised not to talk about the specifics of his positive test for blood doping, which, once again like Hamilton, he is preparing to challenge, Perez declared his indignation at recent events. “I am preparing to demonstrate my innocence, but first I would like them to show that I am guilty,” he commented in reference to the much-debated and much-disputed blood test that he and Hamilton have fallen foul of. The rider from Asturias, in Spain’s north, explained that he is continuing with his usual pre-season training regime and is hoping to find a new team having been released by Phonak. “Last week they told me that they were hoping to get into the ProTour and said that until I could prove my innocence there was no place on the team for me,” Perez said. “To a certain extent it is understandable that Hamilton and me were dropped by the team in order to save the rest of the squad because a lot of families have been affected.” While sticking with his training regime, Perez is also awaiting the final verdict of five scientific experts into the accuracy of the test for blood doping. He said that even if he was ultimately found guilty he felt he was young enough at 27 to be able to return to the sport. Meanwhile, the recent indications from Phonak are that they will continue next season with the squad they have in place minus Hamilton and Perez. The Swiss team has called a team meeting for next week where all views will be heard, but team manager Urs Freuler has told the Todociclismo website that “we will continue until 2006 with all of the new riders on the roster, including Botero, Landis and Perdiguero.” Highlighting a change of strategy within the team, Freuler said they are 100 per cent sure that the test for blood doping is valid and said that the team would not be aiding Hamilton and Perez in their respective fights against blood doping charges. Freuler also indicated that any rider who wanted to leave the team would be allowed to do so, but said he hoped all would stay and that the team would get wild card places into major events next season.