2 cyclists deny blood transfusions

MADRID -- Two Spanish cyclists denied receiving blood transfusions to boost performance from Eufemiano Fuentes, the doctor at the center of the Operation Puerto trial.

Cyclist Angel Vicioso told judge Julia Santamaria via videoconference on Friday that he had only met with Fuentes for "sporadic medical consultations."

"Between 2004 and 2006, I sporadically called Eufemiano for consultations about problems I had like when I hurt my knee in the Tour de France," Vicioso said, according to Europa Press. "They were sporadic consultations and free of charge. I called him and told him `I have this problem' and maybe we would meet in a hotel or a bar and talk about it."

Vicioso was suspended by his team, Katusha, this week for supposedly having misled them about his involvement in the doping case that has taken seven years to arrive in court.

Also Friday, former cyclist Marcos Serrano contradicted testimony from former team director Manolo Saiz, one of five defendants along with Fuentes, by saying he never personally sought out medical treatment from Fuentes.

American cyclist Tyler Hamilton, two-time Giro d'Italia champion Ivan Basso, and former rider Joerg Jaskche of Germany have all given descriptive testimony on the blood transfusion techniques Fuentes used on them and the financial details of their deals.

Two-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador was originally scheduled to appear as a witness on Friday. But the judge announced Tuesday that he would not be required to appear in court after Saiz's attorney renounced the witness statement he had requested from Contador.

Both Vicioso and Serrano said their blood would not be found in the over 200 blood bags discovered by police raids and since kept in storage. They both said they would provide blood samples if asked by a court to prove it.

The World Anti-Doping Agency has asked the court to release the blood bags after the trial concludes so they can be matched to athletes who cheated.

Vicioso and Serrano appeared as witnesses. At the time of the police investigations in 2006 doping was not illegal in Spain.

The five defendants face charges on endangering the health of the cyclists they allegedly helped dope. Besides Fuentes and Saiz, the other defendants are Fuentes' sister and fellow doctor Yolanda Fuentes, and Vicente Belda and Ignacio Labarta, both associated with the former Kelme team.

Saiz, a former director of ONCE and Liberty Seguros, previously told the court that he had let Vicioso, Serrano and four-time Spanish Vuelta winner Roberto Heras see Fuentes only after they had insisted on him granting them permission to do so. Heras is not scheduled to appear at the Puerto trial.

Vicioso said he asked Saiz if he could see Fuentes "for consultations, not to be treated."

Other former cyclists called as witnesses, such as Joseba Beloki, have denied links to Fuentes.

Before hearing his testimony, the judge reprimanded Vicioso for not responding to telephone calls from the court and attempts by the police to locate him. When he argued that he recently changed addresses, she told him it was his duty to inform the court.