More trouble for Fuentes as Operación Puerto charges loom
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Friday, December 10, 2010

More trouble for Fuentes as Operación Puerto charges loom

by Shane Stokes at 6:32 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Spanish doctor already in custody after yesterday’s doping raids

Eufemiano Fuentes found himself back in hot water yesterday when he was one of 14 people arrested in raids linked to the Operación Galgo (Operation Greyhound) investigation into doping. The Spanish doctor had previously been detained in relation to the Operación Puerto raids in May 2006 but, like the riders who were implicated in that, evaded criminal action due to the lack of a law governing doping in sports.

However Fuentes may yet be sanctioned in relation to Puerto, as La Fiscalía de Madrid (Prosecutor of Madrid) is soon set to start proceedings against several people. According to El Pais, Fuentes, José Luis Merino Batres and, possibly, Fuentes’ sister Yolanda are all facing charges of crimes against public health. They may be culpable as they are doctors, and therefore should have been aware of possible complications arising from the poor storage of blood.

Prosecutors had previously tried to use the same law against them, asking riders if they felt that their health had been negatively affected. However the competitors all denied that this was the case, thus closing off that avenue of attack. However shifting the emphasis to the storage of the blood bags is a tactic that could yet see the trio face serious penalties.

The Operación Puerto raids were carried out in May 2006, and followed a period of surveillance by Spanish police. Over 50 professional riders were involved, including Tour de France contenders Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso, as well as top Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde. The latter resisted attempts to ban him internationally for over three years, but was finally handed a long ban early in 2010.

Other sportsmen were reported as being involved, but names were never disclosed. Fuentes admitted that he had worked with athletes from tennis, basketball, soccer and athletics. Cycling was the only sport where action was taken, leading to allegations of a cover up.

Unconfirmed reports named a well known tennis player, while Le Monde accused four prominent Spanish football clubs. FIFA president Sepp Blatter said in May 2007 that he wanted to see the Puerto documents, but there was never an official investigation by football’s governing body.

Yesterday’s raids led to the seizure of a large number of doping substances, including steroids, EPO and blood bags, making it a very serious investigation. Perhaps the most incredible aspect is that Fuentes appears to have continued on his doping practices, despite his earlier implication in Puerto and the fact that he was on the radar of the Spanish Guardia Civil. The clock appears to be ticking for him now, though, both in terms of the latest investigation and also those raids of four and a half years ago.

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