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WADA and Spanish anti-doping agency to challenge decision to destroy Opercion Puerto blood bags?

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.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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