- Bonnie D. Ford, ESPN Senior Writer
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Former U.S. pro cyclist Tyler Hamilton told ESPN.com he has provided written testimony to Spanish authorities prosecuting the Operation Puerto doping case whose central figure, Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, oversaw a program of blood extraction and re-transfusion for Hamilton and dozens of other athletes.
Hamilton is not listed as an official witness in the case, which begins Monday in Madrid after nearly seven years of legal maneuvering. However, in response to a request by the World Anti-Doping Agency, Hamilton said he has signed an affidavit for review by the presiding judge in the case and will testify in person if he is asked to.
"It's the right thing to do, and if they want me to go over to Spain, I will," Hamilton said by telephone Saturday.
Hamilton has previously detailed his relationship with Fuentes both under oath as a witness in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's case against dethroned seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong and in an autobiography, "The Secret Race," published last year. The book described Hamilton's years of doping with Armstrong's U.S. Postal Service teams and as a leader for two European teams. Armstrong confessed to doping in an interview with Oprah Winfrey earlier this month.
Fuentes and four others are being tried for violations of Spanish public health laws. When his Madrid clinic was raided in May 2006, investigators found dozens of blood bags labeled with code names and a stash of performance-enhancing drugs. More than fifty riders were implicated, and the scandal forced a number of them to withdraw from the Tour de France two months later but only a few suffered legal repercussions.
The Puerto case languished and twice was closed and reopened by Judge Antonio Serrano at the behest of a higher court. Anti-doping officials have kept public pressure on to have the case heard and to open the files on more than 100 athletes in other sports reported to have worked with Fuentes, who stated publicly that he worked with unnamed soccer and tennis players.
"The whole purpose of the exercise, and the reason we've been so resolute in pursuing this to court, has been to find out who those athletes are," WADA director general David Howman told the Guardian newspaper in Great Britain. "We need to know what those sports are and who those athletes are so the information can be handed over to agencies who can do something about it."
Numerous riders linked to Fuentes are scheduled to testify at the trial, including 2007 and 2009 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador of Spain, who had his 2010 title stripped for a doping violation unrelated to the Puerto case.
The 41-year-old Hamilton has said he was introduced to Fuentes by cycling team director Bjarne Riis when he joined the Denmark-based CSC team in 2002. He was a client of Fuentes through 2004, when he tested positive for a banned blood transfusion during the Vuelta d'Espana in September. That test result followed a suspicious result at the Athens Olympics, where Hamilton won the time trial gold medal, but could not be pursued for a doping violation because the backup or "B" sample was improperly stored.
"The Secret Race" includes Hamilton's account of his many clandestine trips to Madrid for blood extractions and re-infusions, and one frightening incident in which he became feverish and urinated blood after a transfusion during the 2004 Tour de France.
Hamilton fought his suspension in two rounds of arbitration and denied doping for years until he was subpoenaed in a federal criminal investigation of Armstrong and his former business associates in the summer of 2010. In May 2011, Hamilton granted an interview to "60 Minutes" in which he gave eyewitness accounts of Armstrong using performance-enhancing substances and techniques and described organized doping on the Postal team.
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