Doping scandal spells trouble for Spanish cycling

Spanish cyclist Maria Isobel Moreno tested positive for EPO according to the IOC. She is the first athlete to fail a drugs test at the Beijing Olympics, prompting "disgust" at the International Cycling Union.



The International Cycling Union (UCI) expressed disgust Monday after a Spanish rider became the first athlete to fail a drugs test at the Olympics, blasting the country's "lax attitude" to doping.

Maria Isobel Moreno produced tested positive for blood-booster EPO after being tested on July 31, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said.

She left the Athletes' Village here on the same evening before she knew the results.

"The IOC means business in stamping out doping," IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said as she made public the positive test.

"The test of the athlete revealed that she had tested positive for EPO. Moreno left China the evening of the test, before she knew of the results. Her accreditation has been cancelled and withdrawn by the IOC.

"We have asked the sport's governing body, the International Cycling Union to follow it up as any disciplinary measures will be complete after the Games finish."

UCI president Pat McQuaid said he was disgusted at the news.

"I'm disgusted and annoyed that it's a Spanish girl who is the first positive doping test from the Games," he told AFP.

"The Spanish have been lax in their attitude to doping and this positive test is the result of that. They need to deal with that issue."

Moreno had been considered one of Spain's best hopes for a women's cycling medal in the road race.

Spanish sports officials here described the scandal as "sad" but stressed they were convinced it was an isolated case.

"It's an extremely regrettable experience. If the positive is confirmed, it is a stain on Spanish sport," said Spain's Sports Minister Jaime Lissavetzky.

"If confirmed, it is bad for the athlete, bad for the athlete's health, bad for Spanish sport and for all of us."

Asked if Spanish authorities would investigate the case, he replied: "We will apply Spamish anti-doping legislation to the full.

"We will apply Spanish law to her case and to whoever encouraged her to take the substance and who supplied the substance to her."

Lissavetzky added that Spain was doing all it could to stamp out doping.

"We have more than doubled the budget for anti-doping from three million euros to seven million euros. We have broken up 10 clandestine laboratories and confiscated loads and loads of substances," he said.

"Spanish society is committed to zero tolerance."

Three weeks ago, the president of the Spanish Olympic Committee, Alejandro Blanco said there would not be a single Spanish drugs failure at the Games and that all of the country's 286 competitors "are clean".

In a statement on Saturday after pulling out of the Games, Moreno apologized to the Spanish public and said whe would "explain and defend" her reasons.

Moreno had announced on Thursday she would not be taking part after what has been described in the Spanish media as an "anxiety attack".

IOC President Jacques Rogge said on the eve of the Games that he expected there to be between 30-40 positive tests at the Beijing Olympics.

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