By Susan Westemeyer
The Jan Ullrich-Operación Puerto situation has always been confusing, and there's no indication that things are likely to change soon. A flurry of documents and statements out of Spain have done their part to add to the confusion the last few days.
The first one is a court document dated October 4 and confirming that there is no investigation there against Ullrich. "I swear, that in this Court of Investigation Number 31 of Madrid, the proceeding 4293/06-H is being conducted and that in this proceeding Jan Ullrich has not appeared as an accused person and that as of this date no steps have been taken against him," it says, and is signed by Judge Manuel Sanchez. Yesterday, Ullrich published this document on his website.
Various media outlets have interpreted this document to say that Ullrich has been acquitted and that there are not, nor will there be, charges against him. However, Judge Sanchez told the Süddeutsche Zeitung Wednesday that "practically all the riders of the teams involved" had requested and received a similar document. But it is "absolutely not" to be considered an acquittal of any possible doping charges. Ullrich would at most be called as a witness in the Operación Puerto case. "But," said Sanchez, "it doesn't mean that Ullrich could not be prosecuted in the future."
Sanchez is further quoted in the Netzeitung.de as saying that since Ullrich was not being prosecuted in the case, that "We therefore cannot allow the UCI to use this case as a basis for a ban. But they can issue a ban based on their own knowledge, on their own responsibility."
In addition, the Spanish magazine META 2MIL is quoted on todociclismo.com as reporting that the court has refused to release DNA samples from the blood bags seized by the Guardia Civil during the Operación Puerto raid. This would prohibit a DNA comparison with samples allegedly taken from Ullrich by the Swiss police.
Meanwhile, the Swiss are continuing with its investigation of Ullrich. "The UCI recently confirmed to us" that Swiss Cycling is still responsible for the investigation, and nothing else interests us," according a remark from General Secretary Lorenz Schläfli to Süddeutsche Zeitung. He hopes to have the proceedings finished by the end of the year.
Austria has also received papers from Spain, Austrian Cycling Federation's Rudolph Massak told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. He noted that under the WADA's rules, "one can open a proceeding under justified suspicion.” He assured the newspaper that everything would be looked at and "nothing would be swept under the table." The Austrian federation is still reeling from the doping-related suspensions of three U-23 riders during the recent World Championships, and with this in mind, "the federation won't give out licenses so easily."
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'
April 2, 2009 - Valverde indignant over possible suspension
April 1, 2009 - Valverde: Italy requests two-year suspension
March 13, 2009 - Le Monde newspaper hit with fine over Puerto allegations
March 2, 2009 - WADA president Fahey asks for Puerto evidence
February 24, 2009 - Spanish federation seeks access to Puerto blood bags
February 20, 2009 - CONI considers Valverde case while UCI awaits verdict
February 19, 2009 - Valverde under criminal investigation
February 11, 2009 - Valverde summonsed for Operación Puerto in Italy
February 8, 2009 - Eight charged in Operación Puerto