World champion steeplechaser Marta Dominguez appears to be set to challenge
for Olympic gold in London next year after a judge in Spain ordered doping charges to be dropped against the athlete, who had been arrested last year as part of Operacion Galgo. Domingo thus becomes the second high profile Spanish sports star to escape doping sanctions in recent months following the controversial acquittal of Alberto Contador for failing a test for clenbuterol by the Spanish cycling federation, RFEC.
Dominguez, who stepped down from her position as vice-president of the Spanish athletics federation, had stood accused of supplying a performance-enhancing substance to another athlete. She still faces charges of tax evasion and unlicensed administration of medications.
According to a report on the website Inside The Games, the public prosecutor has five days to appeal the decision but is unlikely to do so.
The website added that charges had been dropped in the case of another athlete who was among the 14 people arrested under the enquiry, 2009 European cross-country champion Alemayehu Bezabeh.
The athlete, who was born in Ethiopia but now represents Spain, was reportedly caught with a bag of his own blood. He denied that he planned to use it to carry out a banned transfusion, instead insisting that the half-litre of blood would be used for testing.
Inside The Games reports that according to the Spanish federation, Bezabeh was cleared due to the absence of evidence against him, and also because "sporting legislation does not consider a simple attempt at doping as a misdemeanour."
That appears to contrast with the position adopted in Italy in cases such as that involving Ivan Basso, handed a 21-month ban in 2007 by the Italian Olympic committee for attempted doping after he was implicated in Operacion Puerto.
Alejandro Valverde remains the only Spanish rider to have been sanctioned as a result of that enquiry, although in his case the ban he received last year was imposed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The Spanish federation, the RFEC, having never opened proceedings against the former Caisse d’Epargne rider who won the 200 Vuelta with the ongoing legal case hanging over him.
The RFEC’s decision earlier this year to exonerate Alberto Contador of wrongdoing following his positive test for clenbuterol in last year’s Tour de France, which he won, led to allegations of lack of impartiality and undue political influence. The UCI and World Anti-doping Agency have appealed the decision to CAS.
There are those who would argue that squirels are improved with a bit of smoke.
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