Spain’s first lady of athletics suspended on steroids trafficking charges.

Martha Dominguez, the world steeplechase champion, was yesterday suspended as one of four vice-presidents of the Royal Spanish Athletics Federation after being charged in a major doping investigation. This is the third major doping scandal to hit Spanish sport in the past four years.

In a letter yesterday on the federation website, its president José Maria Odriozola told the athlete: “In light of the events relating to an alleged doping scheme in which you have been implicated, I have decided to suspend you provisionally as vice-president of the Royal Spanish Athletics Federation. I hope these charges will be resolved rapidly and we can learn the extent of your implication as soon as possible.”

Police detained Dominguez and interrogated her for seven hours before charging her with trafficking and distributing doping products. She is four months pregnant and so was released on bail late on Thursday night.

Police searched her home in Palencia and were later seen carrying out boxes, a computer and sports bags believed to contain steroids, hormones and other performance-enhancing drugs, as well as files and other records.

In a police action codenamed Operation Galgo (Greyhound), 13 other people were also detained for questioning. They included Dominguez’s coach and manager, doctors, pharmacists and a cyclist. Three of them have been charged and remanded in custody to appear before a judge tomorrow. Police have not discounted the possibility of further arrests.

Among the detainees were Dr Eufemio Fuentes and his sister Yolanda, who were both named in 2006 as part of Operation Puerto, the largest doping investigation in Spanish sporting history, when police discovered large quantities of steroids, bags of oxygenated blood, EPO, other drugs and files with names of their clients in Fuentes’s laboratory in Madrid. Operation Puerto resulted in the eresulted in the expulsion of two Tour de France cycling teams and the suspension of four cyclists.

The case was dropped a year later because doping in sports was not then considered a public health offence in Spain. The case was reopened a year later after it had been included in the Spanish penal code, and leading cyclist Alejandro Valverde was suspended.

Dominguez had, until falling into disgrace yesterday, been considered the first lady of Spanish athletics.

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