Doctor Fuentes to go on trial for Operación Puerto offences
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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Doctor Fuentes to go on trial for Operación Puerto offences

by Ben Atkins at 10:44 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Seven in all to stand trial for endangering riders’ health, including sport directors Manolo Saiz and Vicente Belda

operacion puertoEufemiano Fuentes, the controversial doctor at the heart of the “Operación Puerto” doping ring is to stand trial for “offences against public health”, according to reports in the Spanish media. Court of Instruction number 31 has reportedly completed its investigation into the police operation, which broke during the 2006 Giro d’Italia, and has issued an order to put Fuentes, and a number of others on trial.

According to biciciclismo.com, Fuentes will be joined in the dock by his sister Yolanda, Alfredo Cordova, and Jose Luis Merino, who was chief of medical haematology at La Princesa Hospital in Madrid. As well as the four doctors, Comunitat Valenciana team directors Vicente Belda and Ignacio Labarta, and Liberty Seguros team supremo Manolo Saiz will also be put on trial for their part in the doping ring that involved around two hundred athletes.

Operación Puerto – so named because it involved the Guardia Civil’s staking out of the door to Fuentes’ offices – uncovered around two hundred refridgerated bags of blood, extracted from various athletes for reinjection later. The list of two hundred athletes included around fifty cyclists and, although athletes from many other sports were initially named – including major tennis stars and leading Spanish football (soccer) teams – these were withdrawn, and only the cyclists were to face the consequences.

Despite the large amount of evidence of doping and blood-doping, the case against Fuentes was initially dropped in 2007 because there was no specific law against doping in Spain at the time; the investigation was reopened at the request of the Provincial Court of Madrid in February 2008 though. Such practices as carrying athletes’ blood in “backpacks without refrigeration and without clear identification of relevant samples, or practicing haematology controls” are reportedly included in the prosecutors’ evidence.

Of all the cyclists implicated in the investigation, the vast majority were cleared by the Spanish courts shortly after the story first broke. Italians Ivan Basso – who was leading the Giro when the story broke and went on to win – and Michele Scarponi were eventually handed a two-year ban; other riders effectively had their careers ended by the scandal, including 1997 Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich. To date though, Alejandro Valverde is the only Spanish rider to have been sanctioned, after the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) used DNA evidence to link him to some of the seized blood.

The Spanish prosecutor has reportedly requested a two-year prison sentence for Fuentes and his associates, as well as a professional disqualification.

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