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Interview with Kelme's Vincente Belda
 
By Janna Trevisanut
Date: 4/4/2004
Interview with Kelme's Vincente Belda
 

Comunitat Valenciana-Kelme manager Vincente Belda has not had a pleasant last few weeks. Former cyclist and Kelme rider Jesus Manzano published a series of exposes in the Spanish publication AS in which he describes systematic doping and questionable medical practices within the Kelme team.

As a result of these articles, last week the Tour de France organizer excluded Kelme from this year's Tour. Senior government sporting bodies in Spain have begun an investigation starting with extensive interviews with Manzano. A few days ago Belda was feeling unwell and made a visit to the hospital. This interview appeared on the Deia website.

Your health is the first thing, Vicente. How are you doing?

Well, I think that having to come here, to Estella and the Basque Country, on top of a week with a lot of concern and a lot of work, that I was not myself, and it's no surprise that I had a "swoon." On Thursday night I went to the hospital just as a precaution. The only thing they told me was that I had had an anxiety attack, high blood pressure, and a heart like a horse. I have to be sensible for awhile.

You are 49 years old, more than 30 of those connected to the cycling. Are these latest the hardest days?

Yes this has been the hardest time, but not only for me and my team to be those mainly involved in the accusations of Manzano, but for all of Spanish cycling. It is necessary to keep in mind that there have been some wild declarations - somebody who has said them, and somebody that has published them. When a man enters into the world of garbage journalism for vengeance and for money, and he is given the credibility that you are giving him, he is not the only culprit; those who publish him are also doing damage. So that will sell I don't know how many thousands more newspapers? Very well then. But people of cycling, little by little, are seeing that what Manzano has said is for all intents and purposes lies.

The lad has found shelter, for reasons that he knows, he is doing tremendous harm to my team and the cycling but, mainly, to young people: the juveniles, the cadets... The most serious thing is that nobody has yet questioned a single statement of Manzano. For example, his knee.

It seems that things weren't as bad as he says.

It so happens that the same doctor who operated on him five years ago says that the treatment the team used was the correct one and that shortly he will be able to compete.

[Manzano claimed in AS.com that the treatments he received for a knee problem during the last Vuelta a Espana were excessive and incorrect - the title of the AS article: "Cortisone destroyed my knee." An excessive treatment of corticoides during the 2003 Vuelta has left Manzano useless as a cyclist." However, after an examination by a knee specialist at the Surgery Unit of the San Camilo Clinic, the conclusion is that the treatments made by the Kelme doctors were correct, that they were an option, particularly in helping a cyclist recover from a time trial. There is an area of about five centimeters on his knee that has altered pigment due to the injections he received; this could be remedied by dermatological treatment. The examining doctor says Manzano has chronic tendinitis which is common in climbers, and that with physiotherapy, ultrasound and rehab he can return to cycling. Manzano stated today that he is very pleased with this information and is glad that he will not require another surgery.]

And where are we left? We, in 2002, we didn't want to renew Manzano due to his private life, let us say that it was unfocused, shady, and it was our patron, Pepe Quiles, who renewed him, improved his contract out of compassion, toward him and toward his mother, to take him out of the world in which he was. The mother asked that we take him to races away home. She also wanted to take him out of the world he was in. And this is the currency with which pays us. And I say: whom do we believe: the liar who is a has been, or those who have made cycling history? 

Are you speaking of the world of the drugs?

I don't know; he knows. I refer to the report of 2002 in which the sport director of the team recommended to him that he put an end to his dispersed life.

And did he do it?

I prefer to not answer.

Is there anything that Manzano has said that is true?

One can speak a lie among ten truths, but among ten lies it is very difficult to find a truth.

But he assures that he has evidence that involves Kelme, and has said he will bring it to light.

He can give all the proof he wants. Does he have it? I don't know. I believe that this is his way of squeezing business. I repeat, look at what has occurred with the doctor who checked him yesterday: Manzano himself is disassembling his own circus, all by himself he is being discredited. Today's Marca headline: «The circus is growing with midgets». That is what the matter has become, a circus.

What percentage is there really, in the cyclist's accusations?

Very little, at least as far as it concerns me and the team. Look at it. Cycling today requires doctors' care. Cyclists, and all elite sportsmen, need controlled medications. I am not a expert, and I don't know what products they give and which they do not, but I trust fully in our doctors. We have an absolute faith in them. We have 25 years in cycling. At the beginning there were not cycling doctors, and then they began to appear. And, from then on, the health of the cyclists has improved very much. That of cyclists, and that of other many sportsmen. And it doesn't seem to me that doctors play with the lives of people. If you read what Manzano has said about medications, and you read and you listen that there are many doctors who ignore the existence of all those products... Among so many lies one can not know how much truth there is.

You have not come forward to this point. What are you waiting for? Aren't you afraid you will give the image of resignation?

We have been working, from the first day, with lawyers, with the team people, with the doctors... we will step forward when the moment arrives.

And when will it arrive?

When we have all the information that we are gathering. We will come forward with evidence in hand. We won't depend on word of mouth, but with contrasting facts. And we will demonstrate our innocence. And the more data we gather, the clearer will be our innocence. What is painful is to punish somebody before having a chance to be heard - that it is what has happened with the Tour of France.

How will you show it?

We are proceeding with the greatest discretion, but you will see it. Perhaps next week we will clarify everything.

Do you have a calm conscience?

I have a very calm, very calm, very calm conscience. Few times in my long life in cycling have I been as calm as now.

It is whispered that the team might close the doors before year end, that the budget won't come, and that this will be the straw that breaks the camel's back...

No, that is not the case. We have the unconditional support of the president of the Comunitat Valenciana and of the Council of Culture and Sports.

The Tour has already excluded you. Do you have news from the Giro d'Italia?

No. I have tried to contact Carmine Castellano, but it has been impossible for us. At least, we have kept the Giro in mind as something basic in life, it is the presumption of innocence, and they are acting with a patience and tranquility that evaded the Tour. The Giro has waited to see the events, and the latest events are that the lies and falsehoods of Manzano and a newspaper are coming to light. Those that have started this circus are their end of bargain.

Do you still believe you can disassemble Manzano and to force the Tour to rectify things?

Look, Manzano is disassembling all by himself. I won't discredit him, he is discrediting himself. What we will do is prove our innocence, and remove the shade of guilt of doping that covers us at this point. About the Tour? I doubt it a lot. I am certain that the Comunidad Valenciana is doing everything possible so that we are readmitted, but each is free to do what he wants with his race. To me it is a total injustice that we are condemned for the declarations of somebody that has been bought for money.

Additional Information

As stated above, Manzano has had a series of meeting with senior sporting bodies in Spain, stating last week that they very interested in receiving his information and want to fully investigate his allegations. Last week Manzano was very happy to cooperate with them, however yesterday, in a televised discussion of doping in cycling that included Manzano and the director of the Andalusian Center of Sport Medicine, Manzano repeatedly expressed his displeasure at how the investigation by the Superior Council of Sports, claiming that their investigative arm is politically motivated and is trying to cover up the matter.

Manzano also stated yesterday in a press conference in Madrid that it is an injustice that the Kelme team was excluded from the Tour, saying that there are some cyclists who do not take anything.

 
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