Operacion Puerto trial: Fuentes convicted, judge orders destruction of blood bags - will guilty athletes escape?

Doctor at centre of doping scandal receives a year's imprisonment - effectively suspended - while Manolo Saiz is acquitted

by Simon_MacMichael   April 30, 2013  

Syringe

Dr Eufemiano Fuentes is one of two defendants in the Operacion Puerto case convicted today in a Madrid courtroom of charges relating to endangering public health, while former ONCE and Liberty Seguros team manager Manolo Saiz is one of three people acquitted.

The judge presiding over the case, who this lunchtime delivered her verdict in a trial that began in January, has ordered the destruction of around 200 blood bags seized by Spanish police investigating the blood-doping, raising the prospect that athletes from cycling and beyond may escape sanction for their part in the doping ring.

With Fuentes himself having said that the athletes he treated were not just cyclists - he has even said that Spain could say goodbye to the FIFA World Cup it won in 2010 if he revealed everything he knew - and whispers of big-name stars in other sports also potentially being involved, the judge's actions will inevitably leave the the Spanish authorities exposed to accusations of a cover-up.

Funetes, the doctor at the centre of the doping ring which was exposed following a raid on his clinic by Spain’s Guardia Civil in May 2006, has been sentenced by Judge Patricia Santamaria to one year’s imprisonment, although he walks free from the court, with an automatic suspension for sentences of less than two years relating to a single charge.

He has also been banned from working as a sports doctor for four years, although there is no restriction on him carrying on practice in other areas of medicine.

Ignacio Labarta, former sports director of the Kelme/Comunidada Valencia team, was also found guilty of the same charge of endangering public health – doping itself was not a crime in Spain at the time – and receives a four-month prison sentence, again effectively suspended as a result of its short duration.

The three defendants acquitted were Saiz, former Kelme/Comunidad Valencia team mamnager Vicente Belda, and Fuentes’s sister Yolanda, who also practices as a doctor.

Fuentes had denied the charges against him, and has long insisted that his clients went beyond the world of cycling and included footballers, tennis players and athletes, among others. He has yet to name names, however. A number of cyclists, including Tyler Hamilton and Ivan Basso, gave evidence during the trial.

Last month, a Spanish government spokesman said that blood samples, but not the blood bags themselves, would be handed over to the World Anti-Doping Agency once the trial was over.

The judge has now blocked that from happening, however, with the order to destroy the blood bags due to be implemented once it has been confirmed that none of the parties involved will appeal against the verdicts announced today.

26 user comments

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I wonder how many World Cup winning footballers might be implicated, but for the blood bags to be destroyed so no one ever finds out the depths of Spanish cheating??? Or even tennis grand slam winners?

Dirty judge protecting the interests of their nation...why let the truth/information get out to the world Angry

Tripod16

posted by Tripod16 [110 posts]
30th April 2013 - 15:04

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A judicial order to destroy evidence of doping? Cover up? This is Spain. The doping centre of Europe for the last couple of decades. What did we really expect. Hopefully this will lead to Spain losing any prospect of hosting the Olympics/World Cup etc. And also hopefully to the demise of the Vuelta, which is simply a drugsfest for the domestic riders.

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posted by dullard [140 posts]
30th April 2013 - 15:19

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You really have to wonder what the Spanish government didn't want coming out. Appalling cover up that tells you all you need to know about some countries commitment to removing cheats. On the plus side Fuentes court case seems to be interfering with Barca/Real's chances in the football .....

posted by MattT53 [126 posts]
30th April 2013 - 15:20

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Farcical.

posted by andyp [860 posts]
30th April 2013 - 15:55

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really does stink.

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posted by mrmo [1064 posts]
30th April 2013 - 16:08

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An absolute joke. Why is Spain so far behind the rest of Europe in tackling doping?

JaseCD

posted by jasecd [143 posts]
30th April 2013 - 16:20

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The Judge has links with Foolball, one well known club in particular apparently.

mt

posted by timothy [32 posts]
30th April 2013 - 16:26

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So much for the application of common judicial standards across Yurp.
If you tried to destroy evidence in the UK you'd be banged up and rightly so.
You can't even get DNA tests deleted even if your weren't prosecuted, let alone found innocent.

Did Nightrider 2013 for Parkinson's UK, doing it again this year just for the fun of it and to raise more money.

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posted by jova54 [604 posts]
30th April 2013 - 17:38

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In the long run this is a sad day for Spain.

Charlie Horse

posted by ch [100 posts]
30th April 2013 - 17:44

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What do Spain's big 2 clubs possess?

€€€€€€€€€

posted by Matt_S [182 posts]
30th April 2013 - 17:51

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Actually I think that the reason the blood bags are to be destroyed is that at the time it was not illegal in Spain to dope etc. And so you cannot keep evidence where no crime was committed, so she is right in doing that.

However, from a moral perspective and in order that this whole thing might really make a change it would make sense for the information to be passed over for further scrutiny, and it is unfortunate that this case has not illicited more information into the murky world of sport and doping.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1115 posts]
30th April 2013 - 18:05

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Though I might add you might want to look at the incidences of heart attacks occurring in Spanish top flight professional players. It seems to happen at the small clubs as much as the big.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1115 posts]
30th April 2013 - 18:07

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'In the long run this is a sad day for Spain.'

Spain and, unfortunately, cycling. Let's just keep on pretending it's just our sport that has a problem, hey.

posted by andyp [860 posts]
30th April 2013 - 19:25

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Seems like the judge has tarnished relatives somewhere down the line, no other reason for this ridiculous decision.

antonio

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posted by antonio [947 posts]
30th April 2013 - 20:16

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An absolute disgrace, farcical judicial process and absolutely awful judgement- bit like the UCI! There still a lot that needs to change.

posted by Mpittick [10 posts]
30th April 2013 - 20:49

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Hmm... Spanish Grand Slam tennis winners... I wonder who they could be... I doubt we will ever know.


Leviathan of Riderstate

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posted by bikeboy76 [1239 posts]
30th April 2013 - 22:26

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Colin Peyresourde wrote:
Actually I think that the reason the blood bags are to be destroyed is that at the time it was not illegal in Spain to dope etc. And so you cannot keep evidence where no crime was committed, so she is right in doing that.

Not really Colin. Couple of points:

1. Guilt as a result of a crime has been established and this is/was prima facie evidence so any justice of any standing (and the Spanish justice looks quite horizontal after this judgement) would protect that evidence in perpituity for legal record. The fact that the evidence is ordered to not be destroyed until after any appeals process is exhausted substantiates this. This destruction order, except in the case of national security, must be unprecedented in a western European democracy.

2. The reach of fraudulent gains achieved in international events (across all sports) as a direct result of these practices makes this evidence (or at least the samples) material for any international proceedings that could be brought so it is the duty of a responsible justice to protect such evidence not destroy it which is the behaviour you might expect from a corrupt dictatorship.

Bottom line the only plausible motivation to destroy this evidence is to make it go away for ever to protect the reputations of people in positions of power. It is dirty, appalling and undemocratic.

posted by RTB [47 posts]
30th April 2013 - 23:11

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The drugs and cover-ups stretch around the globe and touch every high level sporting venue. Does no one remember the era of drugging in the Olympics ? As long as sports competition involves mankind, some will employ any means to gain an advantage. I believe if the truth ever comes out about the complicity of the UCI, WADA, testing labs, et al, professional cycling will disappear for many years. No sponsor will risk their company's reputation or fiscal bottom line to support a corrupt sport. The handwriting is on the wall, alas the die is cast. Devil

Michael R. Smith

posted by American tifosi [37 posts]
1st May 2013 - 1:34

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Well, the Vuelta needs to go for a start. Balls to tradition - the only tradition it upholds is chemical.

posted by ElCynico [16 posts]
1st May 2013 - 4:05

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RTB wrote:
Colin Peyresourde wrote:
Actually I think that the reason the blood bags are to be destroyed is that at the time it was not illegal in Spain to dope etc. And so you cannot keep evidence where no crime was committed, so she is right in doing that.

Not really Colin. Couple of points:

1. Guilt as a result of a crime has been established and this is/was prima facie evidence so any justice of any standing (and the Spanish justice looks quite horizontal after this judgement) would protect that evidence in perpituity for legal record. The fact that the evidence is ordered to not be destroyed until after any appeals process is exhausted substantiates this. This destruction order, except in the case of national security, must be unprecedented in a western European democracy.

2. The reach of fraudulent gains achieved in international events (across all sports) as a direct result of these practices makes this evidence (or at least the samples) material for any international proceedings that could be brought so it is the duty of a responsible justice to protect such evidence not destroy it which is the behaviour you might expect from a corrupt dictatorship.

Bottom line the only plausible motivation to destroy this evidence is to make it go away for ever to protect the reputations of people in positions of power. It is dirty, appalling and undemocratic.

Actually, if you want to get factual. The crime in question is one of public health. Nothing to do with sport. There was nothing illegal in Spain at that time about what the athletes were doing. The 'fraud' would then have to show that the athletes won something while cheating. Without knowing who they are and what they won I'm not sure this can be shown - you might even require a positive competition test to show this (although I know this sounds ludicrous).
I understand that judicially that police can only hold evidence where a crime has been committed. So unless you know of the exact crime it is they can't hold the evidence (bearing in mind that Spain does not have law against doping). Current privacy laws in the EU prevent information from being held without cause so although we know that the blood bags proves doping (not a Spanish crime in law), it does not prove a crime has been committed in Spain. Frustrating but true.

I'm not saying that this isn't expedient (for the Spanish government) nor that it is right (morally), but you have to have a process in law for the evidence to be kept. The same process which allowed athletes to dope with impunity in Spain also protects them here. It's whether a good legal case can be made as to whether this can be challenged. This is where the Spanish government can make a precedent and open things up. So it's not as cut and dried as you make out. A judge cannot make an arbitrary decision that they are not legally required to do either, so it is not as if the judge is just being corrupt. Any appeal would see to that.

The problem for WADA and the anti-doping agencies is that there does not appear to be easy grounds for the appeal. If there were the legal process could be kept open. Again, I'm not saying this is morally right, but merely this issues underlying this. There was a great article on this somewhere and if I could find it I would link it. It is certainly not as cut and dried as you are making out (and the over simplification by the press also is not helping).

It is a crying shame if more does not come of this though.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1115 posts]
1st May 2013 - 11:59

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American tifosi wrote:
The drugs and cover-ups stretch around the globe and touch every high level sporting venue. Does no one remember the era of drugging in the Olympics ? As long as sports competition involves mankind, some will employ any means to gain an advantage. I believe if the truth ever comes out about the complicity of the UCI, WADA, testing labs, et al, professional cycling will disappear for many years. No sponsor will risk their company's reputation or fiscal bottom line to support a corrupt sport. The handwriting is on the wall, alas the die is cast. Devil

Well lets look at the facts: Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis were the fastest men on earth. Both proven to have doped. Then along comes Maurice Greene and his Balco buddy Marion Jones. 100m record falls. And now we see the fastest man on earth. Doping never went away and the extent of it in pro sport is rife. Only just today Deco (former Chelsea player) has been tested positive for masking agents. It is germane today to say this as he is a former Barcelona player, whom may well have had an account with Fuentes. The major problem is the veil of secrets and requirements for proof. In a court of law the proof has to be of a high standard - but pharmaceuticals are rapidly changing and getting better and mimicking real hormones, and to be able to test the athletes you need to know what they are taking. It took almost have a decade for drug agencies to be aware of EPO abuse, and a little longer to test for it. The testing is always behind the curve.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1115 posts]
1st May 2013 - 12:10

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Colin, the crime I am referring to is the one of public health for which the blood bags/samples formed a central part of the evidence on which Fuentes was convicted. They cannot then destroy that evidence on which the case was successuly prosecuted if they are a responsible judiciary.

The widescale doping (which I understand and agree is not historically prosecutable under Spanish law) is of course the bigger picture issue and it is clear the "greater national good" is being served by a scorched earth policy; there can be no other explanation for this draconian, unwarranted, unprecedented course of action.

Can you imagine what would happen if this came to light? Scandals that would engulf at least one national government and international governing bodies such as FIFA, IOC, UCI (if there is anything left to engulf them) when world cups, Euro championships, tennis grand slams and olympic medals come into centre focus. Far easier (and no doubt commercially viable) to take the flak and abuse from burying it.

posted by RTB [47 posts]
1st May 2013 - 12:35

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Fair play RTB. But I think the point is that these are bags of blood, keeping them around once the case has been tried is pointless if they are no longer evidence. If only for a health reason they should be correctly disposed of and not left to fester. Fuentes looks like he will not appeal the judgement (nor the others involved), so unless a reasonable argument can be made to keep the case running, or that they form part of another court case then there is no reason to keep them. After a narcotics case I'm sure they dispose of the used syringes (or would do).

I wish they would open this scandal wide open. Then at least the discussion on drugs can be made clear.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1115 posts]
1st May 2013 - 13:05

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RTB wrote:

Can you imagine what would happen if this came to light? Scandals that would engulf at least one national government and international governing bodies such as FIFA, IOC, UCI (if there is anything left to engulf them) when world cups, Euro championships, tennis grand slams and olympic medals come into centre focus.

Lance Armstrong would start to look like Peter Pan in comparison.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3082 posts]
1st May 2013 - 13:19

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You're right but although it might not have been a criminal offence it is a doping offence and should absolutely be looked at. Just whether they can cope with the shame. I suppose they can depending on who's lining their pockets!

Chris D

posted by wingsofspeed68 [50 posts]
1st May 2013 - 17:54

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Once we have dealt with a case here, if its a lower level offence (i dont deal with major incidents so cant comment) then the evidence is usually destroyed / disposed of once any appeal period has passed.

Or the judge / magistrate orders a confiscature / destruction order which allows the authorities to dispose of the property, such as drugs, firearms.

In this case i believe pressure has been applied for the blood to be disposed of once the case has been completed and no appeal launched (a slim chance of this considering they basically got away with it).

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2698 posts]
2nd May 2013 - 14:50

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