MADRID (AP) — Two-time Giro d'Italia champion Ivan Basso told a Spanish court Monday that he paid the doctor at the center of the Operation Puerto doping scandal for treatment because he thought it would give him "an assurance I could win" the Tour de France.
Basso told Judge Julia Santamaria that he agreed to a complex treatment with Eufemiano Fuentes that cost €70,000 ($94,000) for one year in 2005, adding he knew it "was not a good thing to do."
Basso, who was given a two-year doping suspension in 2007, said he paid Fuentes €15,000 ($20,000) in cash but was unable to finish the treatment because the police investigation interrupted it.
"I contacted Dr. Fuentes because his system could give me an advantage in cycling," Basso said. "I acknowledge that on my account it was a weakness, a weakness so as to pursue a dream to win (the Tour de France)."
Basso won the Giro in 2006 and then again in 2010 after his serving his doping ban.
He said Fuentes and another doctor, Jose Luis Merino, had told him the treatment "was exactly like donating blood," but he chose to keep the treatment secret from his team and family.
"Only Fuentes, Merino and I knew," he said. "Obviously I knew it wasn't a good thing to do."
To protect his identity, Basso said he used his dog's name, Birillo, to mark his blood bags with.
Also Monday, former rider Joerg Jaskche of Germany went into detailed description of how blood transfusion were actually performed by Fuentes — the kind of step-by-step explanations many critics had said had been lacking in the trial.
Fuentes is the key figure and one of five defendants in the case, which stems from a police raid in 2006 that uncovered blood bags and other doping equipment and implicated many of the world's top cyclists.
No riders are on trial because of the legal limitations of the case, as doping was not illegal in Spain at the time.
Jaskche, who was one of the first riders to admit that he doped with the help of Fuentes, said the Spanish doctor extracted blood from him and provided transfusions and other performance-enhancing substances on up to 15 occasions in 2005-06.
Jaskche said the techniques involved extracting blood from riders' veins to later re-inject just its red blood cells, or sometimes just the plasma they normally float in.
"Blood was first extracted, then, a month later some more was extracted, then the old removed blood would be transfused," said Jaskche. "This would allow my blood levels to be restored."
Jaskche said Fuentes' services were extremely sought-after by riders and recalled looking at a map during one Tour de France race, saying he could "barely make out the shape of France" because of all the written annotations pinpointing where riders had agreed to set up doping stops.
Both Jaskche and Basso said the transfusions often had to be rushed to avoid detection.
"Sometimes when we were in a hurry and the blood bag hadn't reached the right temperature, my arm would get cold and when I got home I wouldn't feel too well," Jaskche said.
Jaskche's testimony contradicted that of Fuentes on some key points
Fuentes has admitted that he supplied blood doping to riders, but said it was for health reasons — not doping. Fuentes told the court he performed transfusions after riders had withdrawn from a race due to exhaustion and only to stop them from suffering physical damage as a result of muscular over-exertion.
Jaskche said he had received blood doping while racing in Germany in 2005, and that they were clearly meant to enhance performance. He said that although the doping in Germany was not provided by Fuentes himself, it was done by one of the Spanish doctor's collaborators whom he identified as "Dr. Choena."
The German said that initially no payment was taken by Fuentes, leading him to assume that his team was taking care of the cost.
Later on, Jaskche said he began to pay for the treatment himself, from small amounts in cash to larger sums which he transferred to what he said was Fuentes' Swiss bank account.