Riders at Sunday’s end-of-season Tres Cantos criterium show sympathy for Santi Perez, but also bemoa
PICTURE BY LAVUELTA.COM News of Santiago Perez’s positive test for blood doping was the main topic of conversation at Sunday’s Spanish Association of Professional Cyclists’ (ACP) criterium at Tres Cantos near Madrid. Several of those riding supported the Phonak rider’s protestations of innocence, but some regretted that cycling was once again making the headlines for all of the wrong reasons. Jos Luis Rubiera told AS that he was fully behind his fellow Cantabrian Perez. “He is my friend, he says he has done nothing, and I have to believe him,” said the US Postal climber. Illes Balears’ Pablo Lastras backed Perez as well but said he regretted the latest news. “We are losing a lot of our credibility because of doping. What is now happening is that every time that someone does something out of the ordinary, which is one of the great things about cycling, they are going to be doubts about the merit of what they have achieved,” said Lastras. According to former Festina and BigMat rider Felix Garcia Casas the sport is in “a vicious circle that is hard to break out of. The sponsors want results, and if they don’t see their name on the TV they leave the sport. Team managers also need results because otherwise they lose their jobs. And the cyclists have to get the results, because if they don’t they end up losing their jobs.” ACP president Jos Rodriguez said he had spent the last few days working with Phonak’s lawyers in order to find a way to clarify the situation on Perez. “I received the bad news about 10 days ago,” said Rodriguez. “Since then we have been working on clarifying details of this positive test for blood doping. “Certain data that might confirm irregularities are missing. I have spoken with Santiago Perez and he has told me that he has not had a transfusion.” The riders at the ACP criterium paid homage to Costa de Almeria rider Jokin Ormaetxea with a minute’s silence before the start. Ormaetxea died as a result of injuries received in a car crash on October 24.