Feb. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Former cyclist Tyler Hamilton testified that an ex-mountain-bike rider performed a blood transfusion on him during the 2002 Tour de France.
The American, giving evidence in a trial of three doctors and two team managers in Madrid, said former Spanish cyclist Alberto Leon infused the blood in a hotel room. Cyclists have been known to collect and later transfuse their own blood to increase their body’s volume of oxygen-carrying red blood cells to boost stamina.
Hamilton, who wrote about doping on the U.S. Postal team as a teammate of Lance Armstrong in a book last year, is among cyclists called as witnesses at the so-called “Operacion Puerto” trial in Spain. He gave evidence via a video link from the Spanish embassy in Washington.
Prosecutors are seeking a two-year prison sentence for each of the defendants, who are accused of a “crime against public health.” Leon, who died in January 2011, had been named by a judge as a suspect in the case.
The five defendants are standing trial after police in 2006 found more than 200 blood bags and hospital-use drugs and notes in raids on apartments in Madrid.
Hamilton, wearing a light gray suit and striped tie, said one of the doctors charged, Eufemiano Fuentes, extracted or transfused his blood about 15 times between 2002 and 2004 when he rode for the CSC and Phonak teams.
“It was a working relationship,” Hamilton testified, adding he paid Fuentes 50,000 euros ($67,000) for the transfusion in 2004 and about 30,000 euros the previous two years.
Hamilton said the Phonak team doctor, a German whose name he couldn’t remember, also transfused some of his blood bag during the 2004 Tour “as a favor.” Hamilton said he didn’t want Fuentes to come to the team hotel that time because there were reporters waiting outside.
After that infusion, Hamilton said he got a fever and his urine was black. It appeared “the blood was not stored properly,” he said.
Last month, Fuentes testified he helped athletes from cycling, soccer and other sports “guarantee their health was not harmed by the rigors of competition,” the Associated Press reported, citing the doctor’s testimony.
The trial is scheduled to end March 22.
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