35 riders and police called as witnesses
Almost seven years after police discovered hundreds of bags of blood in a Madrid clinic during the Operacion Puerto doping investigation, Dr Eufemiano Fuentes and five others will finally go on trial, starting January 28, 2013.
According to a report in the Spanish El Pais newspaper, Eufemiano and Yolanda Fuentes, José Luis Merino Batres, trainer Ignacio Labarta, former ONCE team manager Manolo Saiz and former Kelme manager Vicente Belda risk a two-year prison sentence if found guilty. Doping was not a crime in Spain at the time of the raids and so the Puerto six have been accused of crimes against public health.
The numerous high-profile athletes involved in Operacion Puerto will not go on trial. However 35 people –including Alberto Contador, Ivan Basso, Michele Scarponi, Joseba Beloki, Angel Vicioso, Isidro Nozal, Unai Osa, Jorg Jacksche, Gianpaolo Caruso and Jesus Manzano –who denounced the huge doping scheme after risking his life following treatment, have all been called to give evidence under oath during the trial. The 13 Spanish police officers who carried out the raid will also give evidence. It is not clear if Tyler Hamilton will be called as a witness after recently confessing in his book to working with Fuentes during his time at Team CSC.
The UCI, WADA, the Italian Olympic Committee, Manzano, the Spanish Cycling Federation and the AIGCP -the international association of professional cycling teams are all third party to the trial, along side the Spanish state.
Operacion Puerto lifted the lid on the use of blood doping, revealing that that riders often travelled to Madrid for the withdrawing of blood and then re-infused it prior to key races. The resulting increase in oxygen-carrying red blood cells provided a significant performance boost.
Basso, Scarponi and others have already confessed to their involvement in Operacion Puerto and served bans from the sport. The trial could reveal further names and details of one of the biggest doping scandals of the past decade.