Madrid: Spain’s ‘Golden Era’ of sporting success should not be tainted by an anti-doping investigation that has implicated world steeplechase champion Marta Dominguez, the government said on Friday.
Spaniards have been shocked by the news that Dominguez, perhaps the country’s best-known athlete, had her house searched and was questioned by the civil guard under suspicion of trafficking and distributing banned substances.
The news came two months after Tour de France cycling winner Alberto Contador tested positive for a banned anabolic substance and was suspended, and in a year when Rafa Nadal returned to be tennis world number one and the soccer team won the World Cup.
“Ninety-nine percent of Spain’s greatest successes in sport are not stained by doping in this ‘Golden Era’,” Secretary for Sport Jaime Lissavetzky told reporters.
“The vast majority of sportspeople are clean. Spain is in the vanguard of the fight against doping.”
Earlier on Friday, the Spanish athletics federation (RFEA) provisionally suspended Dominguez from her prestigious post as a vice-president of the body.
They published a letter sent to Dominguez by RFEA president Jose Maria Odriozola in which he informed her of their decision.
“Given the events of yesterday relating to an alleged doping scheme in which you were implicated...I have decided to provisionally suspend your term as vice-president of the Royal Spanish Athletics Federation,” Odriozola wrote.
“I hope that these charges are swiftly resolved and we can learn the extent of your implication in this scheme as soon as possible.”
With her trademark pink headband and matching running shoes, Dominguez is one of Spain’s most popular athletes and was named European Athlete of the Year in 2009.
Last month the 35-year-old announced that she would not defend her world title in Daegu next year as she is pregnant for the first time, and would shift her focus to preparing for the 2012 Olympics in London, which would be her fourth Games.
Dominguez was released from police custody late on Thursday.
Luis Alberto Marco, the European indoor champion at 800 metres, was quoted in the media as saying: “It’s a black day for Spanish athletics. It’s sickening, I’m repulsed by my sport when things like this come out.
“On the other hand, I don’t think my sport is to blame. (The blame is with) the people who are dirtying, and robbing and staining those that fight for a clean sport.”
One of Spain’s best-known athletes Fermin Cacho, who won 1,500 metres gold at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, was quoted as saying: “I am frozen to stone. I cannot believe it.”
Authorities said on Thursday police had raided 15 properties and taken 14 people in for questioning around the country as part of an anti-doping operation known as ‘Greyhound’.
Sports doctors, pharmacists, trainers, coaches, representatives and sportspeople were among those detained, suspected of crimes against public health, the Ministry of the Interior said in a statement.
Police said the operation began in April when they became aware of a group of people who appeared to be helping sports people at the highest level to use drugs.
Among those detained were people implicated in the 2006 Operation Puerto anti-doping probe which rocked the world of cycling.
Although the police report gave only initials and locations for the people taken in, the names of Dominguez and a doctor questioned as part of the Puerto investigation, Eufemiano Fuentes, were confirmed by court sources.
In the raids police discovered large quantities of anabolic steroids, bags of blood, hormones, EPO and laboratory equipment used for carrying out blood transfusions.