Spanish Soccer Team Sues French Newspaper Over Doping Allegations

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Real Madrid has begun legal proceedings against French newspaper Le Monde for publishing a story which linked the club with a Spanish doctor at the center of a major doping scandal in cycling.

Madrid also “demanded a rectification” from the paper over its allegation that Eufemiano Fuentes had treated some of its players.

Madrid said in a fax to Le Monde displayed Wednesday on the club’s Web site that it had never had a relationship with Fuentes or used his services. It said it had never used any unauthorized substance and none of its players had ever visited Fuentes.

It added that any document accessed by Le Monde which linked the club to the doctor was false.

“In any event, we inform you that Real Madrid (notwithstanding any legal action that other incriminated parties may undertake) will file the appropriate lawsuit against your newspaper and the persons directly or indirectly responsible for this report,” Madrid said.

Le Monde’s story, published last Thursday, also implicated Spanish champion FC Barcelona, Valencia and Real Betis.

Barcelona said last Saturday it would take legal action against the newspaper.

Betis said Wednesday on its Web site the report was “completely false” and threatened Le Monde with legal action if the story wasn’t retracted.

However, Valencia president Juan Soler said his club wouldn’t sue Le Monde.

“I know how the process of going to court ends. It becomes you say one thing and I say the other,” Soler was quoted as saying by sports daily As. “The best thing is for the supporters to be clear about it and leave it like that.”

Fuentes faces preliminary charges in Spain of crimes against public health as part of the ongoing investigation known as Operation Puerto. He was arrested in May but has not been formally indicted.

In an interview with Le Monde, Fuentes had refused to say whether he worked with Madrid and Barcelona, saying he had received death threats and been warned against saying “certain things.”

Le Monde claimed that it has seen notes, handwritten by Fuentes on A4 paper, in which the doctor laid out what the newspaper described as “preparation plans” for the two clubs.

The newspaper did not print the supposed notes, nor did it say how it got access to them or specify whether the doctor ever turned over the notes to the clubs. The newspaper said the notes did not name any individual players. It said Spanish police have not seized the notes.

Le Monde alleged that annotations on the notes referred to banned doping products or procedures.

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