“Del Moral took over.
Lie on the bed, roll up your sleeve, give me your arm. Relax.
He tied a blue elastic band below my biceps, set an empty transfusion bag on a white towel on the floor next to the bed and wiped the inside of my elbow with an alcohol swab. Then the needle. I’d seen a lot of needles, but this one was huge – about the size and shape of a coffee stirrer. It was attached to a syringe that was in turn attached to a clear tubing that led to the waiting bag, with a small white thumbwheel to control the flow. I looked away; I felt the needle go in. When I looked again, my blood was pumping steadily into the bag on the floor.”
If the name Luis Garcia del Moral doesn’t mean anything to you at the moment, chances are you won’t forget it in a hurry after reading former pro-cyclist Tyler Hamilton’s tell-all autobiography. Hamilton, a former teammate of Lance Armstrong, comes clean about the culture of doping at the top of the cycling world in the Armstrong-era and the doctors and team managers who enabled and encouraged the riders to break the rules and deceive the drugs testers.
Del Moral features prominently, supplying riders with various drugs and, in the extract above, performing a blood transfusion on Hamilton and then storing the blood bag in a fridge so that it could be re-injected during the 2000 Tour de France.
When the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) charged Armstrong with doping, del Moral was one of five others named in what USADA called “a massive doping conspiracy from 1998-2011”. Like Armstrong, del Moral decided not to contest the charges and was subsequently banned for life on July 10th this year.
It wasn’t just cyclists who worked with del Moral, however. It seems his services were highly sought after. According to the website of sports consultancy firm that employed him (although presumably no longer), his CV includes positions as medical advisor to FC Barcelona and Valencia.
In addition to this, after his lifetime ban, the International Tennis Federation issued a short press release confirming that del Moral had also worked with “various tennis players”.
It does make you wonder why, in the light of this, no journalist has stepped up and asked the pretty obvious question – was del Moral doing the same things at Barca and Valencia that he was with Lance Armstrong’s team?
Given that Hamilton, Armstrong and other top cyclists were able to beat the drugs testers with the help of doctors like del Moral, what exactly would stop these ‘medical advisors’ bringing the same knowledge and techniques to football and tennis?
Update: An interesting snippet from Sunday Times journalist David Walsh after interviewing Tyler Hamilton:
TH recalled short conversation with Postal doc Luis del Moral from 1999: “you guys take nothing in comparison to footballers.” #cleancycling
— David Walsh (@DavidWalshST) September 23, 2012
Update 10/10/2012: I didn’t want to write a whole new post on this but Matt Scott of the Telegraph picked up on the Barca/del Moral link today, which is great to see. Barcelona were unsurprisingly not very forthcoming, confirming only that del Moral was “never on the payroll”, but admitting he may have worked with the medical department on an “ad hoc basis” and may have been employed by individual players. It’s also interesting to note that Valencia didn’t answer calls or respond to emails when asked the same questions.
The other big news today was the release of USADA’s 200-page report on why they brought sanctions against members of the US Postal team and it’s medical staff. I’m still plowing through the report but couldn’t resist a quick CTRL-F for “del Moral”. Here’s some highlights:
“Dr. del Moral would authorize cortisone for the riders for fictitious injuries; Tyler
Hamilton said this was a frequent practice.
Dr. del Moral developed a doping program for Christian Vande Velde that focused on
human growth hormone and cortisone injections.
Dr. del Moral provided hGH to Vande Velde and injected him with hGH and cortisone.
Dr. del Moral would also inject the riders with substances without telling the riders what
they were receiving, even when asked.
At times he was apparently using the riders as “guinea pigs,” investigating the impact of these substances on the riders”
The last one is particularly striking, I think. The report also states that George Hincapie, Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis all testified Dr. del Moral was “deeply involved in the blood doping programme”. ( p.117 of the report).
I won’t hold my breath for football to become embroiled in this any time soon but there may be even more questions about del Moral’s role in the coming days after the full 1000-page USADA report is published.