Judge to rule on releasing blood bags to sporting authorities
The verdicts in the Operacion Puerto trial will be handed down in Madrid on April 30, when the presiding judge will also decide whether to pass the blood bags seized from Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes’ freezer onto the relevant anti-doping authorities, according to a report in Spanish newspaper AS.
Judge Julia Patricia Santamaría has called the five defendants to appear in court in Madrid at 12.45 next Tuesday. The defendants are Eufemiano Fuentes, his sister Yolanda, former Kelme manager Vicente Belda, former Kelme trainer Ignacio Labarta and former ONCE and Liberty Seguros team manager Manolo Saiz.
The five are accused of endangering public health through the systematic blood doping of riders. Fuentes’ defence in the trial centred largely on the idea that doping was not a crime under Spanish law in 2006, when the blood bags were seized from Fuentes’ laboratory and that he always worked to protect his clients' health.
The five defendants face maximum sentences of two and a half years in prison if found guilty, although regardless of the verdict, there is scope for an appeal.
News of the Operacion Puerto investigation first broke in May 2006, with the arrests of Fuentes and Saiz, while a number of Fuentes clients, including Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso, were prevented from starting that year’s Tour de France.
Other riders who later faced sporting sanctions for their links to Fuentes include Alejandro Valverde and Michele Scarponi, although many of his clients have not been formally identified and criminal proceedings have moved slowly. Operacion Puerto finally went to trial in January of this year and the hearing took place in 23 sessions, from January 28 to April 2.
The 216 blood bags seized during Operacion Puerto – which belong to 36 different athletes, are currently in storage in Barcelona’s anti-doping laboratory. Judge Julia Patricia Santamaría is set to reveal on Tuesday whether the relevant sporting authorities will be allowed to cross-check the DNA of the blood bags in order to identity all of the Fuentes clients.
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