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Hermida Leaves MTB Worlds Suspected of Links to Operación Puerto

August 22, 2006 — Only days before the elite men’s XC competition at the 2006 MTB Worlds in Rotorua, New Zealand, Spain’s top MTB star, Jose Antonio Hermida, was ordered home by the Spanish cycling federation (RFEC). Hermida’s name has been linked to the Operación Puerto doping investigation.

In a statement Hermida asserts that the allegations are false, and that the RFEC’s decision to conclude that a nickname found in documents related to the Operación Puerto’s doping investigation referred to him are absurd.

Hermida, who won silver at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, had problems at the 2004 MTB Worlds in Lugano, Switzerland where his high hematocrit level was deemed a safety issue, not a doping violation, and he was ordered to take a rest break.

The RFEC’s general secretary, Eugenio Bermúdez is reported to have told the Spanish sports paper Marca that recalling Hermida was, “permitted by the regulations”.

Both Hermida and his Multivan Merida Biking Team have issued statements regarding this incident.

Multivan Merida Biking Team Statement

At the recent mountain bike world championships, co-favourite José Antonio Hermida has been ordered back to his home country by the Spanish cycling federation before his first race showing. The federation cited “serious personal reasons” for his early return.

Today, José Hermida commented on his early departure and informed on the backgrounds. According to his press release, a nickname has been found in documents belonging to a person linked to the recent “Operacion Puerto” doping investigation in Spain. The Spanish sports federation suspected José Hermida to be meant by said nickname and informed the Spanish cycling federation about it. Based on this information, the Spanish cycling federation decided to draw back José Hermida from the world championships.

So far, no official statement is available from the Spanish cycling federation R.F.E.C. At the moment, José Hermida is neither suspended by the UCI nor is he subject to any other sanctions.

The “Multivan Merida Biking Team” will follow this case very critically and has already asked for a complete look in the files in order to get an objective understanding of the situation at hand. As one of mountain biking’s leading race teams, the team follows a zero-tolerance strategy in case of a doping offence.

Following you will find José Antonio Hermida’s official press release which has been sent to the “Multivan Merida Biking Team” on the early evening of 22nd August. José Hermida is responsible for the content of the following press release.

José Antonio Hermida Press Release

On August 18th the RFEC sent me a fax requesting me to leave the National Team in New Zealand, following direct instructions given by the CSD. The main reason given by the RFEC, on behalf of the CSD, was none other but the supposed appearance of a nickname on a paper belonging to someone involved in the so-called “operación puerto”, a name which has been falsely and artificially attributed to me, without any consideration or certainty.

The argument indicated by the CSD and the RFEC in order to suspend my participation in the MTB World Championship in New Zealand, is so absurd and beyond any sports regulation, and at the same time so harmful to me, that it has led to the initiation of the appropriate penal and civil proceedings. These legal proceedings will be undertaken against both the Secretary General of the RFEC, Mr BERMUDEZ GONZALEZ, and the RFEC itself, as well as against the responsible parties of the CSD which have participated in this political decision, given that in this case:

1. There are no existing legal charges against me.
2. There are no current sanctions against me

As such, there is no data available which could place in doubt my professionalism, and even less force me to abandon an international competition. This issue has, however, initiated a series of doubts, questions and rumours regarding myself, taking advantage of the World MBT Championships and the imminent beginning of the Spanish Cycling Tour (Vuelta a España) with a clear and manifest intention of obtaining the media advantage that the communication of this decision has for both the CSD and the RFEC.

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