Blanco suspends Luis Leon Sanchez pending internal inquiry into Puerto links

Already under heavy media pressure for its own doping legacy, Blanco has suspended Sánchez

Photo: Luca Bettini

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Team Blanco has temporarily suspended Luís León Sánchez as management looks into alleged links between the Spanish rider and the ongoing Operación Puerto doping scandal.

The 29-year-old Spaniard has long denied links to Puerto ringleader Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, but the Dutch team wants to undergo an internal investigation to find out for itself.

Sánchez, 29, is a perennial Tour de France stage-winner who has skirted links to Puerto over the past several years. Each time, he has vehemently denied working with Fuentes.

The Blanco team, already under heavy media pressure for its own doping legacy, has decided to indefinitely suspend Sánchez until management can get a satisfactory answer.

Blanco officials released the decision via the team’s Twitter account Saturday, writing that “pending the results of a Team Blanco investigation … he will not be put on a Blanco team roster.”

There was no immediate response from Sánchez, who joined Rabobank in 2011.

Blanco has been reeling over the past several months. In the wake of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal, long-time team sponsor Rabobank abruptly walked away from its 17-year backing of the elite team and other links to cycling.

With money in its coffers from Rabobank, management created the Blanco team with hopes of racing this season and finding a new title sponsor.

There has been growing media pressure in Holland about possible doping practices within Rabobank throughout the 1990s and 2000s.

Thomas Dekker, a former Rabobank rider, spoke out last month, saying that doping was rife within the Rabobank team and that he is working with Dutch cycling federation officials to disclose the team’s illicit practices.

Current team manager Erik Dekker (no relation), a former pro in Rabobank’s heyday, refused to answer questions from VeloNews last week.

“One word I say about it is one word too many,” Dekker said.

Sánchez raced for Liberty Seguros in 2004-06, but his name was not immediately linked to codenames within the Puerto papers following police raids in 2006.

A winner of four Tour de France stages, Sánchez raced with Caisse d’Epargne during 2007-10 and switched to Rabobank in 2011.

Sánchez has been linked to Puerto a few times, but each time he has vehemently denied working with Fuentes and nothing has ever stuck.

The opening week of the Operación Puerto trial, which started Monday in a Madrid courtroom, has been frustrating for anyone expecting revelations.

The presiding judge has stifled any attempts to make Fuentes name names or disclose the identity of athletes in his codebook.

Sánchez’s name was not mentioned by Fuentes, who did confirm that his clients included Roberto Heras, Enrique Gutiérrez and Santiago Botero.

Late last year, former Rabobank rider Carlos Barredo retired rather than fight charges of blood manipulation after the UCI pushed for a two-year ban for irregularities in his biological passport.


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