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Worldwide condemnation for Spanish judge for decision to destroy evidence following end of trial

Spain’s national anti-doping agency, the AEA, has said that it aims to challenge the decision of the judge in the Operacion Puerto trial to order the destruction of evidence including 211 blood bags seized by the Guardia Civil in 2006, reports BBC Sport, while the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is also considering an appeal.

“We do not consider this the end of the process," insisted the head of the AEA, Ana Munoz, who has promised to change the perception that Spain is soft on drugs cheats. "We will now use all resources at our disposal to investigate further."

WADA has been pushing for access to the blood bags, as well as a list of Fuentes’s clients. During the trial, prosecutors promised the agency that DNA samples – but not the blood bags themselves – would be made available after the conclusion of the trial.

"Access to this evidence motivated WADA’s involvement in this case," the agency stated. "This would ensure appropriate sports sanction processes against the cheats who used Dr Fuentes's services. The court did consider that his conduct was a crime against public health.

"WADA is currently fully reviewing the decision and any possible appeal or other action with its Spanish legal advisors and the Spanish National Anti-Doping Organization," it added.

Yesterday, Eufemiano Fuentes, the doctor at the centre of the case, received a one-year suspended jail sentence after being found guilty by Judge Patricia Santamaria on charges of endangering the health of the athletes he treated.

Former Kelme/Comunidad Valencia sports director Ignacio Labarta received a four-month suspended sentence, while the other three defendants in the case were acquitted.

The judge’s decision to order the destruction of the blood bags and other evidence received widespread condemnation from around the world, including from World Number 3 tennis player Andy Murray, who tweeted: “operacion puerto case is beyond a joke... biggest cover up in sports history? why would court order blood bags to be destroyed? #coverup”

Dick Pound, former WADA president, said: "It's been a disappointing experience from start to finish, from the original suppression of the evidence to an ongoing resistance that continues to this day.

"It's embarrassing for Spain. Everybody knows we will be able to uncover quite a bit more doping if the examples are made available."

While Fuentes has said that cyclists made up only one in three of his clients – he has stated that he also treated footballers and tennis players, among others – it is only cyclists who have ever been sanctioned in connection with Operacion Puerto.

That has led to accusations of a cover-up within Spain, a theory bolstered by the fact that the only Spanish rider to have been banned, Alejandro Valverde, received his punishment after being pursued not by his own national authorities, but by the Italian anti-doping authority, plus the UCI and WADA.

UK Anti-Doping chief executive Andy Parkinson said that the Spanish court’s decision undermined global efforts to fight doping.

"It's massively disappointing because everything WADA has been about for the last few years is sharing information and making sure the global fight is fought at global level," he explained.

"What we've got here is a bunch of information that may or may not implicate people and we can't get our hands on it. That's really disappointing for clean athletes.

"I think the Spanish authorities are doing everything they can. They're up against a criminal legislative process that doesn't recognise that anti-doping is as much a social issue as it is a sporting one and they can provide a lot of assistance.

“We've got to hope they can persuade the judge it's not the best course of action," he added.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

5 comments

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thereandbackagain [168 posts] 3 years ago
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Words fail me, this absolutely stinks.

I can't understand their being any justifiable reason for destroying evidence.

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notfastenough [3665 posts] 3 years ago
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I can't quite decide whether this is a case of an inflexible bureaucracy deciding that the samples can't be used to detect something which wasn't an offence, or whether it's a deliberate cover-up. Either way, this stuff really needs to come out, because whether it was a criminal offence or not is irrelevant; it was a sporting offence and they all knew it.

The Spanish just seem to think that doping is no big deal.

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arrieredupeleton [575 posts] 3 years ago
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Well said Dick Pound. Given that Fuentes has confirmed he treated cyclists surely the Sport's own Governing Body should show some slight interest in this case now?

If memory serves, it was the cyclists' own national federations who banned them previously. However, until the blood bags are cross-referenced against the biological passport info we'll never know who was involved. Just more incompetence from Fat Pat and his cronies.

As for Spain...well, football seems to be the only sector of their economy that is doing anything. Just saying.

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doc [167 posts] 3 years ago
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arrieredupeleton wrote:

Well said Dick Pound. Given that Fuentes has confirmed he treated cyclists surely the Sport's own Governing Body should show some slight interest in this case now?

If memory serves, it was the cyclists' own national federations who banned them previously. However, until the blood bags are cross-referenced against the biological passport info we'll never know who was involved. Just more incompetence from Fat Pat and his cronies.

As for Spain...well, football seems to be the only sector of their economy that is doing anything. Just saying.

Just how do you get from a legal decision which looks very poor and may be related to external pressures from within the country, to UCI being incompetent? An odd connection because if the evidence is destroyed, then how are any links possible? Most odd assertion.
It does look as if someone in Spain is trying to ensure that evidence concerning the use of illegal processes should not be released to those in a position to act on it, if it was found to connect to top performers in any big money sport.

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arrieredupeleton [575 posts] 3 years ago
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Doc, The UCI's continued silence on this case is at best, complacent and at worst advocating the destruction of evidence that could not only bring cheats to justice but advance the understanding of doping practices. How can we assume that all the cycling 'names' have been banned? We don't know that Fuentes' list was exhaustive. Without wishing to endorse a witch-hunt there are bigger and still active riders out there who have so far, gotten off scot-free.

For the UCI not to insist (publicly at least) on having the blood bags analysed is just plain wrong in my view.