Sunday 20 October 2019

Cycling: Judge orders doping blood to be destroyed

Simon Hart

THE Spanish anti-doping agency is to launch a legal appeal after the judge in the Operation Puerto trial sparked outrage yesterday by ordering the destruction of more than 200 blood bags that could hold the secret to one of the biggest doping conspiracies in sporting history.

Judge Julia Patricia Santamaria rejected a request by the World Anti-Doping Agency and the country's national anti-doping organisation to hand over some 211 bags of blood and plasma and other documentary evidence seized by police seven years ago from the clinic of Dr Eufemiano Fuentes.

Santamaria found Fuentes guilty of endangering public health by giving blood transfusions to elite cyclists and sentenced him to a one-year suspended jail term, but she frustrated anti-doping officials by ruling that all evidence relating to the case, right down to the computers used during the Operation Puerto investigation, would now be destroyed.

Investigators are anxious to examine the blood bags using the latest scientific methods to identify athletes from a range of sports who used Fuentes' services as a blood-doping expert but who have yet to be unmasked.

Fuentes, who openly admitted helping athletes to dope but who could only be tried on public health offences because doping was not illegal in Spain when his clinic was raided in 2006, testified at the start of his 10-week trial that his customers included athletes from football, tennis, athletics and boxing. So far, only cyclists have been implicated in the conspiracy.

Ana Munoz, the director general of Spain's anti-doping agency, said her organisation had instructed lawyers to file an appeal against the judge's order.

The blood bags will remain in frozen storage in Barcelona until the appeal process is complete.

The ruling will do nothing to remove Spain's reputation for being soft on doping and it could harm Madrid's chances of hosting the 2020 Olympics. The city is on the final shortlist along with Tokyo and Istanbul.

Irish Independent

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