Spain talks tough on drugs after cyclist fails test

Spanish authorities have pledged to hunt down and even imprison doping offenders after cyclist Maria Isabel Moreno became the first competitor at the Beijing Olympics to fail a drugs test.

Moreno, better known as Maribel Moreno, was tested for drugs on the day she arrived in Beijing on July 31 and the results showed she had used the endurance-boosting EPO drug, the International Olympic Committee said.

"We are going to hunt down these shameless people who harm our athletes. We are going to clamp down totally and will take the toughest action," Spanish Sports Minister Jaime Lissavetzky told reporters.

Moreno was tested just hours after her arrival and returned to Spain the same evening, leaving Beijing in tears and citing an anxiety attack, Spanish team officials said.

"She was quite different after being tested," Eugenio Bermudez, Secretary General of the Spanish Cycling Federation, said. "She was crying all the time and she insisted she wanted to go home."

Moreno, 27, has been stripped of her Games accreditation and the matter has been referred to the International Cycling Union (UCI).

Lissavetzky said an investigation would be launched to identify how Moreno, who was tested three times in less than two months and six times in the past six months, got hold of the drugs.

"I ask you Maribel, looking you in the eyes, 'who gave you the substance and where did you buy it?'" Lissavetzky said.

Two Spanish riders tested positive for EPO during this year's Tour de France, cycling's premier event, last month.

Spain launched "Operation Puerto" in 2006 after raids uncovered large quantities of anabolic steroids, laboratory equipment used for blood transfusions and more than 200 bags of code-named blood, some of which were linked to leading cyclists.

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