The World Anti-doping Association's legal director Olivier Niggli said Friday that he hopes the Spanish court will re-open the Operación Puerto case. The doping affair, which began in 2006 had been shelved by the judge in charge of the case in 2007, but WADA, the UCI and the Spanish sports council appealed to the courts to pursue the case which may involve hundreds of athletes.
Niggli told AFP, "If the magistrates decide the case has to be re-opened it will be handed over to the chief investigating magistrate and the bodies appealing for the affair to be fully investigated, notably WADA and the International Cycling Union (UCI)."
The case, which began in May, 2006, when police raided the clinic of Eufemiano Fuentes, turning up hundreds of bags of stored blood, doping products and other evidence. Niggli feared that if the case were to be closed for good, his organization and the UCI would "risk losing a huge catalogue of evidence", because the property in the case would be returned to its owner: Fuentes.
Niggli said that among the evidence is, " bags of blood, the famous red powder, hard drives... there is little that can be done if Fuentes decides to throw everything down the toilet. All the paper documentation is one thing, but if the final piece in the puzzle goes missing ..."
The case has so far only caught three riders in its net: Ivan Basso and Michele Scarponi, who confessed, and Jan Ullrich, who was linked by DNA evidence. Spaniard Alejandro Valverde and 2007 Tour winner Alberto Contador have also been linked to the affair to varying degrees.
"It's no secret there's a lot of circumstantial evidence against Valverde," Niggli continued. "But to prove that, we need to carry out a DNA of the bag of blood (linked to the rider)."
Niggli is hoping that the Spanish courts, which declared that there was no evidence of a crime against public health - the only punishable offense which could be applied to the case, would agree with WADA's view to the contrary.
"I'm reasonably optimistic because the whole medical argument of the case is rock solid: you can't argue that the use of blood transfusions on people who don't need them can not be considered a danger to public health."
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