Riders like to call the UCI blood-takers by the name vampires.
If ever there was a vampire in the sport of pro cycling , it’s Manolo Saiz. You can’t get rid of him, — he keeps crawling out of a dark hole somewhere. Try as you might, it appears difficult to kill him.
Saiz and Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes were two of the biggest names in the Operación Puerto blood doping scandal back in 2006. Previously the boss at the powerful ONCE squad, he was then running the Liberty Seguros when the caca hit the fan and the police moved in.
The defiant Saiz admitted zero, apologized for nothing and slinked out of the sport when nobody — even the corrupt and cynical — would have anything to do with him.
But the man is now back once again.
He’s taking over as director of sport for the Basque amateur under-23 team Baqué-Campos. Always a big talker, Saiz claims he is even thanking about trying to take the squad up to the WorldTour level.
“It’s a step I wanted to take,” said Saiz. “I’ve been collaborating with the team, and now I am going to be involved a little more because I want to think about the future.”
Saiz should have no future in the sport and his presence is only an ugly and very visible reminder of a dark past. He’s the last guy in the world you want trying to inject more positive energy into the sport. Inject EPO, yes, but credibility, no.
As Velonews’ Andrew Hood pointed out, “the Spanish peloton is in ruins.” There’s only Movistar at the WorldTour level, and Caja Rural at pro-continental. Trying to line up any new sponsor money proved impossible for Euskatel-Euskadi and Formula 1 driver and pretend-cycling savior Fernando Alonso had the same problem — among several other issues.
While some claim that Saiz remains popular in Spain — hard to believe — it’s also hard to fathom how any potential sponsoring company with a meaningful set of ethics or understanding of bad PR would sign up for any pitch with Saiz’ name attached.
Still, the fat man sings and you get the feeling that for Saiz, it’s still 2005 and Puerto never happened. The man is in a time warp, an ethical void, his ego still driving him forward, oblivious to shame and public opinion.
He thinks the show is ready to hit the road again and all roadblocks have vanished.
“It’s not possible that the Basque Country, the most important base of national cycling, doesn’t have a team,” said Saiz. “[Spanish cycling] is missing something, and we saw that in the world championships.”
As crazy as it seems and as shocking as it sounds, Saiz believes he is the missing piece that Spanish cycling is missing. No, he’s the piece that should stay missing forever.