Former Barcelona soccer star Eric Abidal denied in court Friday that he illegally received a liver donation and vowed that the transplant process was rightfully done.
Abidal, the current sporting director for FC Barcelona, had been accused of paying donor Gerard Armand for the liver he received in 2012 when he was diagnosed with cancer. Armand is Abidal’s cousin.
Abidal’s lawyer told reporters that the transplant happened with the “strictest “legality," according to UOL. Juanjo Castillo, who used to work for FC Barcelona, testified that the idea that Abidal’s liver “had been bought” stemmed from a joke between friends and wasn’t real.
Spanish authorities re-opened an investigation into Abidal earlier this year, however, after new evidence suggested that the liver he received was trafficked, according to the AFP.
El Confidencial reported in July 2018 that “at least four phone calls had been intercepted” in which former FC Barcelona president Sandro Rosell admitted to have bought an “illegal liver” for Abidal. Armand insisted to the Spanish newspaper he was the one who gave Abidal the liver.
“I was stunned. I am the one who has given the liver. I did not understand anything at all. People from my family came to see me,” Armand said at the time. “I was a month and a half in the hospital. And when I read that the liver that Eric received was perhaps not mine, I was stunned.”
FC Barcelona released a statement in 2018, denying any “irregularity” in the matter.
“In light of stories published in relation to the liver transplant received by the club's former player and current Technical Secretary, Eric Abidal, FC Barcelona roundly deny any irregularity in the matter, as have Abidal and the Hospital Clinic de Barcelona facility,” the statement said.
“The stories omit an important fact, as this case was closed by a Barcelona court on May 18th. This omission has caused damage to the reputation of Eric Abidal, all of the organizations involved in the transplant procedures, FC Barcelona and former club president Sandro Rosell.”
“The club are saddened by the lack of rigor in the spreading of such information about such a sensitive issue, and reaffirm our commitment to Eric Abidal and his foundation to help improve the lives of children and young people affected by similar medical treatments.”
Spain’s National Organ Transplant Organization also said in 2018 that Abidal’s transplant was lawful and that every step “was carried out in accordance with current legislation and good practice.”