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Tennis players shun Spanish doctor

Source : AP
Last Updated: Wed, Nov 14, 2012 11:00 hrs

The owner of a leading tennis academy in Spain that trained some of the sport's stars says its players have stopped working with a doctor banned by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for helping riders on Lance Armstrong's cycling team dope.

Pancho Alvarino told The Associated Press the relationship between his TenisVal academy and doctor Luis Garcia del Moral "started approximately 14-15 years ago."

That overlaps with del Moral's work for the U.S. Postal Service cycling team. The USADA says del Moral helped to implement a "team-wide doping program" as a doctor for USPS from 1999-2003, when Armstrong won the first five of seven Tour de France titles that have been stripped from him for doping.

The USADA handed the doctor a lifetime sports ban in July. Del Moral criticized the agency's proceedings and said he never witnessed organized doping at USPS.

Replying by email to questions from the AP, Alvarino said "many of our players" consulted del Moral for preseason blood tests, strength tests and for injuries. He said TenisVal used the information to tailor specific training programs for each player.

If there had been any indication that del Moral was doping academy players, "I would have denounced the doctor, as well as the player," Alvarino said.

He indicated the academy has now severed the link with del Moral. "After Armstrong's news, no player from TenisVal has (had) contact or any kind of relationship with him," he wrote.

Players paid the doctor's clinic directly, Alvarino said, adding that TenisVal coaches always accompanied players on visits to del Moral. TenisVal and del Moral's clinic are both in Valencia, on Spain's east coast.

"Dr. Del Moral has been always a very important personality in sports medicine in Valencia and he has worked with many sports people and sports teams from many countries, as everybody knows," wrote Alvarino, a former player, and captain of Spain's first Fed Cup-winning team, in 1991.

Sara Errani of Italy, the losing finalist in women's singles at the 2012 French Open, said in September that del Moral "was the best doctor in Valencia for everything, so I have been working with him, of course."

Errani added she would no longer consult him because "his name is not (a) good name."

Former top-ranked woman Dinara Safina of Russia also consulted del Moral when she was at TenisVal. Russian website Sport Express last month quoted Safina as saying del Moral "has the only real clinic in Valencia where athletes can undergo tests before the beginning of the season and at the end. And we underwent the tests in this clinic. We ran on the treadmill, they took blood samples from our ears, and so on."

"Del Moral gave us no advice whatsoever and did not handle our cases," Sport Express quoted Safina as saying. "I have nothing to be afraid of. I'm clean."

The manager of the International Tennis Federation's anti-doping program, Stuart Miller, said he investigated del Moral's work in tennis in the wake of the USADA's ban.

The ITF "interviewed Sara Errani, among others," Miller told the AP. Citing confidentiality requirements, he wouldn't reveal details of the investigation or say if the ITF determined whether del Moral helped players to dope.

"If there's a case where somebody has breached the rules, it will be publicly reported," Miller said. "So you can draw what conclusions you like from that."

Del Moral has disputed the USADA's evidence against him.

In a statement posted last month on the website of the Valencia clinic where he works, he said: "During the years that I was with the medical team of U.S. Postal I never was witness to doping organized by the team, nor of course any that I (supposedly) facilitated or promoted."

"Beyond a doubt, I have not participated in any doping ring, nor has it been proven," the statement said.

In affidavits, former Armstrong teammates told the USADA that del Moral drew up doping plans, injected them and supplied them with the banned blood-boosting hormone EPO as well as testosterone, human growth hormone and cortisone, and helped extract and re-infuse blood for banned performance-enhancing transfusions.

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Associated Press writers Angela Charlton in Paris and Joseph Wilson in Barcelona contributed to this report.




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