UCI president Pat McQuaid has said that it would be a defeat for the fight against doping if the blood bags seized as part of Operacion Puerto were not released for analysis.
The UCI is appealing the decision taken by a Madrid court judge not to release evidence from the recently-concluded Puerto trial, which could lead to the possible identification of riders and other athletes who blood doped under the supervision of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes.
“I’m in total disagreement with that decision, which is why the UCI is appealing,” McQuaid told Marca, according to AFP. McQuaid added that the destruction of the Fuentes blood bags would be “defeat in the fight against doping.”
191 blood bags were seized by investigators as part of Operacion Puerto in 2006, the doping investigation which left Ivan Basso, Alejandro Valverde, Jan Ullrich and Michele Scarponi among those who served suspensions for their ties to Fuentes.
Following the conclusion of the Puerto trial in April, however, in which Fuentes was given a one-year suspended prison sentence for damaging public health and banned from working as a doctor for four years, Judge Julia Patricia Santamaria rejected requests from anti-doping authorities and international sports federations for permission to analyse the blood bags from 35 different people in order to identify the athletes involved.
“I still think that there are more athletes implicated [beyond cycling],” said McQuaid. “That’s the information I have but I don’t have proof. It’s a pity that cycling is the only sport that has been affected.”
McQuaid’s second term as UCI president expires this year but the Irishman is aiming to run for re-election with the endorsement of the Swiss Cycling Federation after doubts emerged regarding Cycling Ireland’s willingness to nominate him.
McQuaid admitted that the UCI’s reputation has been damaged by the damning assessment of its handling of the Lance Armstrong affair outlined in the US Anti-Doping Agency’s report on the case.
The USADA Reasoned Decision included testimony from former US Postal Service riders who said that the UCI had covered up a positive test from Armstrong in 2001. The UCI has refuted the allegation, saying that Armstrong had returned a suspect sample – but not a positive test for EPO – at that year’s Tour de Suisse.
“It’s true that we had some difficult months after the USADA report and there is still a long way to go for us to rid ourselves of the damage that Armstrong has done to us,” McQuaid said. “But what we can say is that the UCI has always done everything possible to get rid of doping from cycling, without fear and without favourable treatment to anybody.”