The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) has announced that it intends to hear riders, doctors and team directors that could shed some further light in the Operación Puerto doping scandal that has rocked cycling since May last year. CONI's anti-doping prosecutor has received further elements which could be used to open disciplinary proceedings against implicated riders, even if they were not Italian.
The anti-doping entity said it had jurisdiction over the affair because it was responsible for guaranteeing that foreign nationals involved in competitions in Italy had not broken anti-doping regulations. It added it had informed Rome magistrates of its decision so they could assess whether to take criminal action.
According to La Gazzetta Dello Sport, doctors and managers will be called first, then riders. It has been suggested that one possible consequence of non-attendance at the hearings is that CONI could ban those who are absent from competing on Italian soil. This would logically prevent their participation in the Giro d’Italia, but also from this year’s world championships (which are taking place in Varese) and even the Tour de France, given that it enters Italy this year.
The news will consequently be a concern for riders such as Alejandro Valverde, who is suspected by both the UCI and WADA of being involved in the Puerto affair. Attempts were made to block him from riding the world road race championships last autumn.
Also, L'Equipe reported on Thursday that an Austrian laboratory, Humanplasma, is currently being investigated as it is suspected to be practising in blood doping. Roland Achatz, representative of the Austrian government, revealed that the investigation was opened following a written query by the president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Richard Pound. So far, the lab director, Dr Lothar Baumgartner, has denied being involved in any blood doping affair whatsoever.
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