3 November 2015

Spanish rowing club under scrutiny in anti-doping trial

A former rower has reportedly told a court in Bilbao, Spain, how he was injected on a daily basis with ‘more than eight syringes’ filled with a concoction of performance-enhancing drugs. In the first day of an anti-doping trial, Spanish newspapers are reporting that the rower, appearing as a protected witness, alleged that a network of at least a dozen people coordinated the drug administration. Ten defendants have reportedly testified in the trial against administrators and medical staff at the Urdaibai Arraun Elkartea rowing club, which competes in trainera regattas off the coast of Spain.

‘We were needled in the veins, in the shoulder, in the stomach, in the bottom,’ the rower reportedly said, and had prepared ‘more than eight injections, a lot more’ for each rower, which were allegedly administered after training and before and after each race.

According to reports the doping ring included the Urdaibai President, Josu Zabalondo, as well as the coach, the nurse and the doctor, Marcos Maynard, among others. According to the Spanish newspaper, El Mundo, it was the coach and nurse who administered the drugs themselves, and who assured the rowers that they were only injecting them with vitamins and iron. Some members of the team reportedly grew suspicious of what was being injected, but didn’t act.

The rower told the court that on one occasion, after receiving the injections, he began to feel ‘very bad, vomiting, dizziness and tremors’ and therefore informed the club that he no longer wanted to continue with the injections. On informing them of this, the rower claimed that he was separated from the rest of the squad.

The Urdaibai rowing club, from Bermeo in the Basque Country in Northern Spain, competes in the Liga ACT and the Bandera de La Concha, two high profile competitions for trainera rowing. The club had reportedly had a string of ‘bad results’ before the new coach arrived, and who promptly started implementing the injection regime. Following this the club went onto win both competitions on a number of occasions. The prosecution reportedly started an official investigation following allegations from the coach of rival team Kaiku.

The prosecution has reportedly requested two and a half years in prison for each of the defendant. According to the prosecution, the substances administered to the players include insulin and erythropoietin (EPO) among other substances.

The case continues.

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