Fuentes provided doping program, says Hamilton

Updated 20 February 2013
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Fuentes provided doping program, says Hamilton

MADRID: Disgraced former American cyclist Tyler Hamilton claimed yesterday he was given performance enhancing drugs as well as blood transfusions by Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.
Doctor Fuentes is the principal accused in the “Operacion Puerto” trial examining whether the blood transfusions he carried out on a number of high-profile cyclists endangered public health.
Hamilton though claims he not only received numerous blood transfusions from Fuentes but was also provided with the blood-booster EPO, testosterone, insulin and human growth hormone (HGH).
“I was a patient of Doctor Fuentes from 2002-2004,” he told the court.
“In our first meeting we planned transfusions and medical treatments for the future.
“He gave me a calendar with the races and with the dates that I should take the substances and he gave me EPO.
“The calendar was circled with when I should take the EPO and the color of the circle indicated the amount.
“The consumption of HGH, testosterone and insulin were also indicated on the calendar.
“I didn’t follow the instructions on HGH very much and I only took insulin one time because I didn’t like how I felt when I took it. I sweated a lot and my heart rate increased.” The American, who twice tested positive during his career in 2004 and 2009, also claims to have felt ill after receiving a blood transfusion in 2004.
“The worst I felt with a transfusion was in the 2004 Tour de France. I think the blood had gone off or had not been handled well,” said Hamilton, who confirmed he had first been put in touch with Fuentes by then CSC team manager and a former Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis when he rode for the team from 2002-03.
“Within 35 or 40 minutes of the transfusion I went to the bathroom and my urine was black.” Hamilton said he ended his relationship with Fuentes just months after that experience when he tested positive in the 2004 Tour of Spain due to traces of someone else’s blood being found in his system.
“When I tested positive at the 2004 Tour of Spain they said I had blood from another person in my system.
“My teammate Santi Perez, who was second in that Vuelta, also tested positive for the same reason as me.
“Perez was also a patient of Fuentes and we traveled together to carry out a transfusion in June 2004.” Hamilton also confirmed that he had received blood transfusions from other people, including one from former Spanish cyclist Alberto Leon, who had no medical training, carried out during the 2002 Tour de France.
Hamilton, 42, has become one of the most pivotal first hand witnessess about the doping culture in the peloton in recent months having provided crucial evidence against Lance Armstrong.
Hamilton rode alongside Armstrong in the US Postal Service team in the late 1990s and testified against him in the investigation that led to Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles last year.
Earlier in the day Fernando Gutierrez Ortega, head of the Spanish center of sports medicine said he did not agree with Fuentes’ defense that the transfusions were to keep his patients haematocrit level stable.
“The transfusion of a bag of blood, for me, does not have a medicinal purpose. It is designed to increase the training load and physical performance, not to cure an athlete.
“An athlete that detects a low haematocrit level should for me be instructed to rest and treated with licit means such as iron and folic acid, not with a transfusion which, by definition, carries risks.” Fuentes denies the charge of endangering public health. The trial continues.


Arabian Gulf League CEO shares bright vision for the future

Updated 40 min 34 sec ago
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Arabian Gulf League CEO shares bright vision for the future

  • Waleed Al-Hosani has been Arabian Gulf League CEO for 18 months
  • Al-Hosani's vision for the league includes making attending matches more appealing to fans

DUBAI In an unassuming office 
block above an Audi showroom in Abu Dhabi, Waleed Al-Hosani is plotting the future of professional football in the UAE.
It is a task that requires creativity and the Pro League Committee (PLC) workspace is certainly conducive to that; a replica substitutes’ bench complete with leather chairs sits in the reception area, while a running track weaves its way among the desks and chairs.
The PLC office is bright and innovative, mirroring Al-Hosani, who for 18 months has been the organization’s CEO. In that time, the Emirati has already demonstrated significantly more foresight than his predecessors. Al-Hosani’s goal is to reinvigorate the Arabian Gulf League (AGL).
From the outside, it may appear that it does not need reinvigorating. UAE clubs have appeared in two of the past three AFC Champions League finals and the UAE has been ranked as the AFC’s best league for the past four years. Millions of dollars have been plowed into the AGL, with marquee players improving the standard of football and ensuring progress to the latter stages of continental tournaments.
Competitiveness is not, however, the criteria that concerns Al-Hosani.
Last season, the average attendance for AGL matches was just 2,500. The league commands some princely sums in TV rights and reportedly attracts an impressive viewership of up to eight million people. But empty stands are a source of both embarrassment and worry.
Tackling this fan apathy is the central tenet of the PLC’s new four-year plan, introduced at the start of the 2017-18 season.
“Poor attendances is the biggest issue we are facing in the Arabian Gulf League,” Al Hosani told Arab News.
“When the Pro League Committee first launched in 2007, the focus was on investing in the teams, getting better players from around the world and creating a big buzz in the media.
“Unfortunately they didn’t manage to balance this with community engagement. This has resulted in clubs becoming closed, not realizing the role they can play in the community and the responsibilities they have to preserve and develop their fanbase.”
This failure by the clubs strikes a personal chord with Al-Hosani. Raised within a stone’s throw from Al-Wahda FC in Abu Dhabi, the PLC chief spent his childhood immersed in the club.
“For many of us, Al-Wahda was our life,” he recalled. “Of course we played football there whenever we could. But beyond that they put on classes to helped us with maths and English, we went bowling — there were a lot of activities. It created loyalty between us and the club.
“Somewhere along the way, this was lost. You look around the AGL and that sort of environment doesn’t exist. I think I’m fortunate I had this experience in my childhood as I can now try to recreate that feeling for people again.”
Diverting money away from transfers and salaries and into infrastructure has been the PLC’s main aim this season. Each club now has a budget set aside for marketing and community activities, which must be designed with long-term benefits in mind.
“A lot of clubs want to use the money for 
prizes but you cannot buy loyalty. A few years ago, Al-Jazira did an amazing giveaway — if you attended matches you could win a Ferrari. It received a lot of attention and attendances exploded that season.
“It was a nice project but when it finished, the fans were gone. The people didn’t come for the club, they came for the prizes. We want to avoid that — we want to build a new, loyal generation of supporters.”
Al-Hosani is demanding that clubs focus their efforts on engagement with supporters. He wants to see community initiatives and liaison with schools and neighborhoods — in order to create a greater sense 
of belonging.
The matchday experience, too, is a target for improvement. It has been lacking for some time for UAE football fans, who have grown accustomed to broken Wi-Fi and closed food and beverage outlets. The rebuilding and refurbishment of a number of stadiums ahead of next year’s Asian Cup in the UAE will be a welcome boost for supporters.
“The improved stadiums will help many clubs,” Al-Hosani explained. “But it’s not enough — we want them to build fan zones, F&B structures — anything that improves the experience of going to an AGL match for fans.
“This change is not easy as most clubs have never thought about it, but that is why we are providing workshops and education so they can understand how to engage 
with the fans and increase the attendances.”Even the act of purchasing a ticket is now significantly easier. It seems remarkable that just a year ago, the majority of UAE football supporters could only buy a ticket when they arrived at the stadium. The introduction of a new central online ticketing system, in English and Arabic, 
has created a more efficient mechanism that also opens up the AGL 
to a wider audience.
Attracting expats and tourists to games has long been regarded as the Holy Grail for the AGL. Almost 90 percent of the country’s population are non-UAE nationals, but in the 11 years since the Pro League Committee was formed it has failed to unlock the secret of how to get them to matches. More accessible tickets is the first step, according to Al-Hosani, who has been encouraging clubs to recognize the importance of diversifying their fanbase. “Reaching out to expats is of course vitally important. I’m not sure why we are so late to do this but based on my experience when I was a fan of the league, I think the initiatives weren’t consistent. Maybe they did one campaign and then stopped for two years before doing another one. “We are working on future promotional activities. We will go to beaches, malls, public gardens — we will do kids’ activities, entertainment, competitions — we want people to know the AGL. The key is to be patient and persistent.”
A desire for quick wins has long been an issue for both the league and its clubs, who are notoriously trigger-happy with their managers. Al-Hosani and his PLC team are working hard to change that mentality and have already made admirable inroads. “As any change anywhere in the world, it’s difficult,” Al-Hosani said. “People are afraid of the unknown, this is natural. There will be resistance but there is a growing understanding that these changes will benefit UAE football in the 
long term.”