Spanish parliament has approved the proposed new anti-doping law on Thursday, November 2. The long-awaited legislation, which puts doping infractions on a criminal level, was adopted by 302 deputies out of 310, and should be in place within the next six months - possibly within three.
The new set of laws foresees prison sentences from six months up to two years for involvement in illegal doping practices. "This is a big step forward," said the Spanish minister for sport, Jaime Lissavetzky, who initiated the new law. "The principle of zero tolerance is becoming a reality in this country. Sports people support this law, as the persons responsible (for doping) will also go to prison. In criminalising doping, it makes is easier to fight it on a legal level." Athletes will be offered reductions of their punishments if they collaborate with the investigators to identify the dealers and persons behind their doping use, who risk lifelong bans if licensed within a sports discipline.
A Spanish anti-doping agency will moreover be created to coordinate and carry out blood controls throughout the country, which will take place during competitions as well as randomly. To refuse such a test will be seen as criminal act, and proven dopers will be banned for two to four years.
According to German Vice President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Chairman of its Sports and Law Commission Thomas Bach, the new law could be an important factor in Operación Puerto, whose court in charge has - for now - prohibited cycling federations to use the gathered information on a disciplinary level. But the question remains whether the new law will be retroactive.
Spain has therefore followed other European countries such as France and Italy, where doping can already be prosecuted on a criminal level. Germany, still in shock over the recent allegations against Jan Ullrich, is currently discussing a draft legislation similar - if not more severe - than the Spanish law. In other European countries, the fight against doping in sport is being carried out only on a disciplinary level.
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