A Spanish anti-doping official said his agency plans to question players on the Real Sociedad soccer team between 2001 and 2007 after a former president said club doctors administered banned drugs.
The official, who declined to be identified in line with agency procedures, said it hasn’t opened a formal investigation because there isn’t enough evidence so far.
Former Real Sociedad president Inaki Badiola told the As newspaper on Feb. 4 that the club, runner-up to Real Madrid in the 2003 Liga, had a fund to buy the drugs on the black market before his one-year term in 2008.
The World Anti-Doping Agency is trying to find whether sports other than cycling were part of a doping ring that was uncovered in a 2006 police investigation called “Operacion Puerto,” or “Operation Mountain Pass.” Police found 200 blood bags and hospital-use drugs.
A trial of three doctors and two cycling team officials accused of a “crime against public health” is under way in Madrid. A lawyer representing Montreal-based WADA is allowed to question the defendants and witnesses in the trial, which is scheduled to run through March 22.
El Pais newspaper on Feb. 5 published what it said was a 2008 e-mail to Badiola from a Real Sociedad doctor saying money from the fund would be used to acquire “growth factor” drugs to assist recovery from injuries.
Jose Luis Astiazaran, the Real Sociedad president from 2001 to 2005, said in a Feb. 4 statement he wasn’t aware of illegal practices by the team’s medical staff during that period.
Astiazaran, who is now the president of the Spanish league, said “numerous” anti-doping tests didn’t find any wrongdoing while he was in charge.
Real Sociedad captain Xabi Prieto, who has played for the team for a decade, told El Mundo newspaper that he hadn’t witnessed any unusual practices. “Our sport has nothing to do with cycling,” Prieto was quoted as saying.