Operacion Puerto blood bags must be released, says Madrid court
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 14/06/16 4:29pm
A Spanish court has ordered that more than 200 bags of blood seized in the Operacion Puerto police raids in 2006 must be released to the sporting authorities for investigation.
This follows a successful appeal by the International Cycling Union, Italian Olympic Committee, Spanish Cycling Federation and World Anti-Doping Agency against a 2013 decision to destroy the blood bags.
That decision followed the conclusion of lengthy criminal proceedings against the doctor at the centre of the doping scandal, Eufemiano Fuentes, and four co-defendants.
Judge Julia Patricia Santamaria gave Fuentes a suspended one-year sentence for endangering public health and handed Jose Ignacio Labarta, an official from the Kelme cycling team, a four-month suspended sentence.
But those sentences have now been overturned by the appeal court as it has decided no offence was committed under the laws at the time of the raids a decade ago.
The other three defendants in the original trial, including Fuentes' wife, a former Spanish Olympic hurdler who tested positive for drugs shortly after the 1988 Olympics, were acquitted.
The decision by the appeal court in Madrid to acquit Fuentes and Labarta will surprise many but not as much as the decision to release the blood bags, which belong to 35 different athletes and have been stored in a freezer at Barcelona's anti-doping lab for a decade.
Most anti-doping experts had given up on ever getting the chance to discover who they belong to, although it remains unclear if any sporting sanctions will result from the tests as the statute of limitations for doping cases in 2006 was eight years.
The appeal judges said they were overturning the 2013 decision to destroy the blood bags in order to help the "fight against doping, which undermines the essential ethical value of sport".
They added that destroying the blood bags might "create the danger that other athletes may be tempted to take drugs, sending a negative message that the end justifies any means".
The disputed blood bags were found at Fuentes' clinic in Madrid shortly before the start of the 2006 Tour de France, which immediately ruled out a number of the sport's biggest names, including Italy's Ivan Basso, former champion Jan Ullrich of Germany and American star Tyler Hamilton.