French paper to print letters refuting doping claims

December 20, 2006

PARIS -- Le Monde will publish letters by four Spanish soccer teams refuting allegations by the paper that the clubs were linked to a Spanish doctor at the center of a doping scandal.

The French daily said it had no plans to print a correction to its Dec. 7 story.

Real Madrid said on its Web site that Le Monde had promised to retract the story. The paper alleged that doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, linked to a doping scandal rocking the cycling world, had treated some of the soccer club's players.

Le Monde sports editor Eric Collier denied any plans for a retraction, saying the newspaper will publish letters by Real Madrid and the other three clubs named in the article.

He said Le Monde already has letters from Real Madrid, Valencia and Real Betis and is awaiting one from FC Barcelona, and that they would be published by the end of the year.

"They have a right to response, according to French law,'' Collier said. "We will give them that right, in publishing the letters. "That is not at all a retraction by Le Monde.''

FC Barcelona said it has presented Le Monde with a lawsuit for alleging links with Fuentes, Spanish news agency Efe reported Wednesday.

Club president Joan Laporta said Barcelona had done so "because this report damages the image of the club and the moral harm is done irrespective of whether they put out a correction.''

Real Madrid has also begun legal proceedings against Le Monde, the club said last week. All three clubs have demanded a retraction.

Fuentes has denied any involvement with the clubs.

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


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press