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Spain's 'Operation Greyhound' nabs one of the country's most decorated athletes

Marta Domínguez, world champion in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, was one of 14 athletes, coaches, doctors, and others arrested in Spain's latest anti-doping investigation.

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The arrest “harms the image of Spanish athletics,” wrote the federation’s president José María Odriozola in a letter sent to Domínguez that was posted in the organization’s website on Friday. The federation also removed Alemayehu Bezabeh, a Spanish athlete of Ethiopian descent, from the country’s team that will compete in a European competition starting Sunday in Portugal. He was not among those arrested, but his coach was.

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Spanish Secretary of State for Sports Jaime Lissavetzky said in a press conference Friday he was filled with “sadness and sorrow,” following the investigation. While not commenting on the case directly, since the court imposed a gag order, he said the arrests show “the system works” and that there would be “zero tolerance” in the fight against doping.

The head of Spain’s Olympic Committee Alejandro Blanco told Spain's official news service EFE on Friday that he was “stunned and very surprised. Of course we never expected this could happen.”

Also charged by police was Alberto García, Europe’s 5,000-meter champion who had already been suspended for two years in 2003. The charges carry prison terms of up to two years.

Spanish media said the investigation was triggered by the arrest a year ago of race walker Francisco Fernández, a former Olympic silver medalist, for possession of performance enhancing drugs. He denied on Friday he was the whistle blower.

'Now we have our Marion Jones'

Operation Greyhound comes just months after three-time winner of the Tour de France Alberto Contador came under scrutiny for his last title this year. That investigation is ongoing.

Spanish media quoted 800-meter European indoor champion Luis Alberto Marco as saying, “It’s a black day for Spanish athletics. It’s sickening. I’m repulsed by my sport when things like this come out.” Fermín Cacho, Olympic gold medalist in 1992 in the 1,500 meters said, “I am frozen to stone. I cannot believe it.”

Europe’s silver medalist in the 5,000 meters, Jesús España, was also quoted as saying, “It’s a well-known secret that is starting to be exposed.”

One comment posted in a popular sports daily seemed to sum up Spanish disappointment: “You screwed up Marta, you screwed up. You had it all. Why did you have to get into this mess. Now we have our Marion Jones. From idol to rubbish faster than a cock can crow.”

Staff writer Christa Case Bryant contributed reporting from Boston.

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