Cycling: Sponsor drops Spanish team over doping inquiry

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The Independent Online

The leading Spanish team sponsor, Liberty Seguros, are pulling out of the sport after their squad's manager Manolo Saiz became embroiled in Spain's biggest ever anti-doping investigation. Saiz was one of five individuals detained by police on Tuesday after 200 drip-bags of manipulated blood and an array of other illegal doping products were seized in raids on clinics and flats in Madrid and Zaragoza.

Saiz promised that the team will carry on regardless, but Liberty's exit will cause problems for Kazakh Alexandre Vinokourov, their lead rider and a favourite for the Tour de France.Saiz was released on Wednesday but Eufemanio Fuentes, the former team doctor, is still in custody.

The names of almost 200 athletes - including the 1998 Tour winner Jan Ullrich - are said to have been in files in the Madrid clinic, run by a leading Spanish hematologist whom police are questioning, and which was apparently used by the ring.

Most were also caught on video entering the building housing the clinic on one or more occasions, and one source said "the majority of the big cycling names in Spain barring [Tour favourite] Alejandro Valverde are involved".

Jan Ullrich has denied any involvement, stating: "I have never worked with Fuentes."