The UCI president Pat McQuaid has strongly criticised a judge in a high profile doping case for ordering the destruction of blood samples that could identify more sports cheats.
The judge in the Operacion Puerto that saw Dr Eufemiano Fuentes convicted for has now blocked that from happening, 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.
Speaking about the decision to sports newspaper Marca McQuaid said: "I couldn't disagree more, and that's why we have appealed.
"The Spanish anti-doping authorities have to get to the bottom of exactly who were the owners of the bags, so that we can get rid of the cheats.
Asked what would happen if the blood bags were, indeed, destroyed, McQuaid said: "Then it will be a defeat for the fight against doping."
In a brief statement issued last month, the UCI confirmed that it is to appeal, and it is likely to be joined in that by other organisations - but this is the first time McQuaid is thought to have spoken out about the affair.
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.
Access to the blood bags would enable DNA matches to be made to individual riders, exactly as happend with Alejandro Valverde, who had not been sanctioned by the Spanish national cycling federation but eventually received a two-year worldwide ban after a sample taken from him in Italy was found to match the DNA in one of the Operacion Puerto blood bags.
While press attention at the time the Puerto case broke in 2006 focused on cycling, Fuentes himself has made it clear that cyclists only made up around one in three of his clients, saying that athletes he treated also included footballers, boxers and tennis players, among others.
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.
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.
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.