After years of speculation, a report in El País on Wednesday claims that all 216 blood bags seized during the Operacion Puerto anti-doping probe in 2006 have finally been accounted for. The 216 are all in storage Barcelona’s Anti-Doping lab, El País reports, and belong to 36 different athletes or cyclists.
Now seven years old and counting, Operación Puerto has become a byword for contradicting and confusing media reports, with one of the main outstanding issues a clear identification of the number, nature and location of the blood bags, as well as which sportspeople provided the blood itself. That judicial reports have stated different numbers of blood bags seized has hardly helped matters, with up to 223 reported found.
In what appears to be a definitive report, El País says there are 216, but only 211 were actually destined for reinfusion. The other five, labelled - with macabre humour typical of Fuentes - ‘sangría’ were apparently for using as a counterweight during the process of centrifugation.
The blood was sent in two shipments to Barcelona, one of 99 bags and the other of 117. However, that 96 of the bags in the second shipment are then officially reported to total 52 is not due to some being lost on the way; rather, the figure 52 refers to the number of boxes in which they were contained. Each box corresponded to one athlete and could contain up to four bags. A further 21 bags came in individual units, because they were still due to be processed and placed in the deep freeze coffer, codenamed Siberia, that Fuentes used for long-term storage.
Of the 36 athletes, some had both blood bags and plasma. El País claims that Francisco Mancebo - codenamed Porras or Goku - had no fewer than 20 in total in Fuentes’ system and another six riders had more than 10. The paper divides up the total of 36 clients into 12 athletes, 23 cyclists and one unidentified sportsman or woman. In total 17 clients are identified, another 19 remain unclear.
Confirmation of the report - which would establish for once and for all that more than cyclists were involved, but which reduces the number of sports to just two or perhaps three should the unidentified sportsman or woman not be an athlete - depends partly on whether the judge presiding Puerto will give the go-ahead for the bags to be cross-checked with DNA by the sporting authorities after the trial closes.
As yet, it is unclear if that may happen or even when. From Wednesday until Friday the prosecution lawyers are delivering their summaries, after which there will be a break for Easter. April 9th currently looks like the most likely final date for the end of the trial.