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Operacion Puerto: Court orders release of blood bags

Sporting and anti doping bodies had appealed ruling of judge in 2013 to destroy them

A Spanish court has ordered that blood bags seized as part of the Operacion Puerto doping scandal be released to sporting and anti-doping authorities so that they can be investigated.

The 211 blood bags were seized in 2006 as the Guardia Civil raided premises including the clinic of Dr Eufemiano Fuentes, the doctor at the centre of the scandal.

But in April 2013, handing down a one-year suspended sentence to Fuentes after he was found guilty of breaking public health laws,  Judge Julia Patricia Santamaría ordered the bags to be destroyed.

Today’s decision follows the appeal against that decision of Spain's national cycling federation, the RFEC, the Italian Olympic committee CONI, the UCI and World Anti-doping Agency (WADA), following an international outcry at the time over the destruction of potential evidence of doping.

Fuentes’s clients covered a range of sports, but few have ever been sanctioned, and in the case of cycling, while a number of Spanish riders were investigated as part of Operacion Puerto, none was subject to disciplinary proceedings in their home country.

The one Spanish rider who did receive a ban was Alejandro Valverde after Italian authorities took an interest in his case when the Tour de France crossed the border into Italy on an Alpine stage.

They also sanctioned two Italian riders, Michele Scarponi and Ivan Basso, while the German authorities banned Jorg Jaksche and Jan Ulrich.

Even if the blood bags are tested and is found to constitute evidence of doping by specific individuals, it is unlikely that any would face formal disciplinary proceedings given that the statute of limitations under the World Anti-Doping Code for the period in question is eight years.

In March this year, WADA declared that Spain’s national anti-doping agency, AEPSAD, was not compliant with its regulations.

AEPSAD has been put in an almost impossible situation by the inability of politicians to form a government after last year’s elections, with new anti-doping legislation needed to ensure it meets WADA’s requirements.

Last week, WADA also suspended the accreditation of one of two anti-doping laboratories in the country, citing among other things the fact that in the past year too low a proportion of the tests it has conducted have been on samples collected outside Spain.

AEPSAD expressed surprise at the decision, which relates to a laboratory in the capital, Madrid. The Operacion Puerto blood bags are being stored at what is now the country’s sole currently accredited anti-doping laboratory, in Barcelona.

Simon joined 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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