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Cycling | International Cycling

Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes © Action Images

Verdicts to be delivered in Operation Puerto case



The verdicts in the Operation Puerto doping case will be delivered on Tuesday, seven years after a police raid uncovered one of the biggest cheating scandals in cycling.

The case centres around Dr Eufemiano Fuentes and four other defendants, who are accused of supplying blood doping services to cyclists.

The two-month trial ended on April 1, and Judge Julia Santamaria has since been deliberating on the prosecutors' claim that the defendants endangered public health by performing blood transfusions and other doping practices on sports professionals. Doping in itself was not a crime in Spain in 2006, when the police raids were made that led to the arrests.

Fuentes stood trial alongside his sister and fellow doctor Yolanda as well as three former officials from cycling teams Liberty Seguros and Kelme - Manolo Saiz, Vicente Belda and Ignacio Labarta.

The trial featured several former and current riders who testified against Fuentes, describing in detail how he extracted blood from his clients, treated and stored it before then sometimes re-injecting part of it back into riders' bloodstreams.

All five defendants could face jail terms of 2 ½ years if found guilty.

Spain has since passed anti-doping legislation, with an even stricter anti-doping bill to be voted on by parliament this summer.

The case has attracted a lot of international interest not only because it implicated more than 50 renowned cyclists, only a few of whom have been sanctioned for cheating, but because of suspicions that top athletes in other sports could also have used Fuentes' services.

Fuentes testified that he had clients from other sports, including football, tennis, boxing and athletics, but those names did not emerge during the trial.

The long delay from the time of the original police investigation to the end of the trial has frustrated the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) and tarnished Spain's reputation in the fight against banned performance-enhancing substances.

However, Madrid has bid for the 2020 Olympics and Ana Munoz, director of Spain's new anti-doping agency, has said she is determined to pursue a much harder line on sports cheats.

A key part of the trial centreed on evidence found in more than 100 bags containing red blood cells and plasma that had been separated through the use of sophisticated centrifuges. Wada and Munoz have requested access to that evidence with a view to employing recent advancements in scientific analysis to pursue cheats.

Santamaria is expected to also rule on what can be done with the bags now that the trial has ended and they are no longer considered part of a crime scene.

Further investigations could begin should Wada and Munoz be given access to the evidence.



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