MADRID (AP) — Cyclist Tyler Hamilton told a Spanish court Tuesday he paid tens of thousands of dollars a year for doping to the doctor at the heart of the Operation Puerto scandal.
Hamilton told Judge Julia Santamaria by video he used blood doping about 15 times and also bought the blood booster EPO, testosterone, growth hormone and insulin from defendant Eufemiano Fuentes.
Fuentes is on trial for endangering public health with his sister and fellow doctor, Yolanda; Manolo Saiz, a former ONCE and Liberty Seguros team sports director; and Vicente Belda and Ignacio Labarta, both associated with the former Kelme team.
Hamilton said he paid $33,000 to $40,000 for the services in 2002 and 2003. He then agreed to pay $67,000 for 2004, but was not able to complete the treatment because he tested positive for receiving someone else's blood in September 2004.
The American rider was stripped of his gold medal from the 2004 Athens Olympics last year after confessing to doping.
Meanwhile, the judge announced that two-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, one of 50 cyclists implicated in the Puerto investigation, would not be required to appear in court.
Ignacio Arroyo, the attorney for Saiz, said at the end of Tuesday's hearing that he renounced the witness statement he had requested from Contador. Santamaria then ruled that because Arroyo had been the only trial participant to request testimony from Contador, the rider's presence would no longer be necessary.
Hamilton, a former rider for the U.S. Postal and CSC teams, among others, said he had first met Fuentes in Spain at a highway rest area between Barcelona and Valencia "to fix up blood transfusions" and "to plan for the future."
Blood doping is a high-tech technique that extracts blood from a rider, separates red cells from the plasma and re-injects the oxygen-carrying cells into a rider just before a boost in performance is required.
"The worst reaction I had was 2004 when I had a reinfusion during the Tour de France and as far as I could tell the blood hadn't been stored properly," Hamilton told the court. He said he knew something was not working out when he went to the bathroom "35-40 minutes later and my urine was black."
Then, on Sept. 11 of the same year, while riding in Spain's Vuelta, he tested positive for "mixed blood cell population," or receiving someone else's blood.
The test came weeks after winning the time trial at the Athens Olympics and less than two months since the severe reaction to the reinfusion, he said.
Hamilton said a number of things could have gone wrong for him to have tested positive for having someone else's cells in his bloodstream. He said it was possible that somehow his bag had got mixed up with another rider's, or the bag could have been tampered with, or the test gave a wrong result.
Under cross-examination, Hamilton said he had heard that another rider in his team, Santiago Perez, had also tested positive for the same reason. He said he knew Perez and other riders also used Fuentes' blood doping services because they had flown together from Lyon, France, to Madrid, during the Dauphine Libere race, to get infused.
He said they spent a night in Madrid, staying at a hotel near the airport where they received blood doping. He added that they all finished in the top 10 of the race.
The ex-rider said the reason Fuentes raised his rates was because of a high-tech freezer in which blood products could be stored for a long time and transported without deterioration in quality.
"We called it Siberia," he said.
When asked who put him in contact with Fuentes, Hamilton named one-time Tour de France and Giro d'Italia winner "Bjarne Riis, general manager of team CSC. Riis currently runs the Saxo Tinkoff team, which includes Contador. Contador was stripped of a third Tour title after testing positive for clenbuterol.
Earlier testimony came from Jordi Segura, the director of a Barcelona lab where many of the blood bags seized during police raids on Fuentes' labs, offices and apartments are stored. Segura said the analysis tests that could be performed on bags today were much more sophisticated than those possible when the evidence was transferred to his lab for safekeeping in 2006.
Many of the plaintiffs in the Puerto trial, including Spain's anti-doping agency and the World Anti-Doping Agency want Santamaria to release the bags to investigators for further testing after the Puerto trial concludes.
The trial is limited to doping in cycling, even though athletes in other sports were also reportedly implicated in blood doping with Fuentes. Such evidence could be contained in the bags.
In the Puerto trial, Santamaria can rule only on matters covered by Spanish law as it applied in May 2006, when doping in sport was not illegal.
As the hearing ended, Hamilton apologized to Santamaria for cheating.
"My biggest fear was that something like this (trial) would happen," he told the judge.