Spanish cyclists halt race to protest doping report

MADRID -- About 200 cyclists competing in the road
race at the Spanish national championships on Sunday dismounted
and returned to their hotels in protest at a newspaper report
that accused at least 58 riders of doping.

The riders had covered about three kilometers of the race, according
to media reports.

Their anger was sparked by Sunday's El Pais newspaper which
published extracts of a supposedly-secret judical investigation
into doping.

The newspaper report, six days before the start of the
Tour de France, said cyclists had taken part in systematic

Civil Guard police investigations show at least 15 members of
the team formerly known as Liberty Seguros were among the 58, El
Pais said. Only four cyclists, all Spaniards, were identified in
the newspaper report. No one at the Civil Guard was available for
comment Sunday.

The Spanish Cycling Federation said it was looking at taking
legal action "over damage caused by leaks ... from a judicial
summary that, until now, was secret".

Jose Rodriguez, head of Spain's Professional Cyclists
Association, said the newspaper report tarnished all his
members' reputations.

"Again, our union has been shaken with generalized
accusations, putting all riders under suspicion. Professional
cyclists support the fight against doping," he told a news

Earlier this month Manolo Saiz, sporting director at the
team formerly known as Liberty Seguros, stepped down after
police detained him for questioning in what newspapers have
labelled Spain's biggest anti-doping probe.

Police have raided a number of addresses and found a large
quantity of medical supplies, such as anabolic steroids, as well
as more than 100 frozen packs of blood, under Operation Port.

Two doctors among those arrested -- Jose Merino Batres and
Eufemiano Fuentes -- were charged with crimes against public health
while mountain biker Alberto Leon was forbidden from leaving Spain.
All deny doping accusations of doping.

El Pais said Civil Guard investigations showed Fuentes, who
allegedly charged up to $50,000 a year for treatment, had contact
with cyclists in this year's Giro d'Italia.

The newspaper said Saiz told police that at least three Liberty
Seguros cyclists had asked for Fuentes to treat them. The paper
said they were Roberto Heras, Marcos Serrano and Angel Vicioso. The
fourth rider identified in the report was Isidro Nozal.

Heras was banned for two years after testing positive for EPO at
last year's Spanish Vuelta, which he won and was stripped of his
title. He eventually was fired from the team. The rider insists he
is innocent and attributed the positive test to an error.

The Spanish government has said it is determined to crack
down on doping in sport and has passed a draft law which will
make it an offense for professional athletes to use, or be
supplied with, banned substances.

Information from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this report.