Real Sociedad have been improving of late with three wins from their last four games but have been rocked by allegations of match-fixing and doping. The team from the Basque Country currently occupy 8th position but have come under close scrutiny of late following an interview with the club’s former President Inaki Badiola in Spanish newspaper AS last Monday.
Badiola, President at La Anoeta for a 12 month spell in 2008, suggested that Sociedad players had used ‘illegal medicine bought with dirty money from the black market’ in a spell under former President Jose Luis Astiazaran, current head of the LFP (Spanish FA). Both the club and Astiazaran have issued strong statements since the interview denying any knowledge of the alleged doping.
Astiazaran took charge of Sociedad in 2001 and left for the LFP in 2005. Under his tenure, Sociedad almost won the La Liga title, finishing two points behind Real Madrid in 2002/03 having led the table with just two games to go. Aside from the stand out season, Sociedad finished in 13th 14th and 15th places which looks unusual and caused a major surprise 10 years ago when it happened.
Badiola revealed the information about the doping following the ongoing ‘Operacion Puerto’ trial in which doctor Eufemiano Fuentes and four colleagues face charges of doping athletes in cycling and football. What is certain in that Badiola publicly removed club doctors Eduardo Escobar and Antxon Gorrotxategi because evidence was found that in previous seasons funds had been given for products used in doping techniques.
“Fuentes would have to confirm it in court,” Badiola said, “But it looks like it”.
As the allegations increased, former Sociedad players Xabi Alonso and Valeri Karpin denied any knowledge of doping or drugs within the club during their time under the Astiazaran regime. However, former Liverpool goalkeeper Sander Westerveld admitted that in was common for players to receive injections after a game in the dressing rooms.
The ‘Operacion Puerto’ trial is due to run until March 22nd in which Fuentes will reveal his client list. If Sociedad are shown to be guilty then they could yet face punishment for their practices and a number of players could come under the microscope. If anything, it will almost certainly mean Astiazaran will have to resign from the LFP.
Adding to Sociedad’s dismay are rumours of match fixing following 7 consecutive games against teams reduced to 10 men. Hector of Real Zaragoza was dismissed on Sunday in Sociedad’s 2-1 win and was the 9th time an opposing player had been shown a red card against the team this season. The run of matches also includes Gerard Pique’s red card in the 3-2 win over Barcelona in January which was a surprise result and Barca’s first and only league defeat of the season. In contrast Sociedad have only seen a single player dismissed this season.
With the Europol match-fixing scandal ongoing, doubters have already descended upon the side who can’t stay out of the papers. It may just be a coincidence that the decisions are currently going Sociedad’s way but as the controversies are so topical it is natural for people to point fingers. They’re creating headlines but for the wrong reasons but if they can continue their recent form and lie low for a while then journalists may write more positive stories about the club.
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