Almost a year to the day that anti-doping authorities secured a huge legal victory when they prevented the destruction of blood bags from the Operacion Puerto trial, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is still trying to establish their next step.
After gaining access to the infamous blood bags last June, WADA has identified the athletes to whom each of the bags belongs to. However, the statute of limitation has passed and therefore prevents the authorities from handing out any sanctions. This has left WADA with the quandary of what, legally, they can do with the information.
Buried at the bottom of a press release issued earlier this week, following the meeting of WADA's Executive Committee, were two brief sentences regarding the Operacion Puerto case. Despite the challenges that WADA faces due to the expiration of the statute of limitation, the executive committee has asked the organisation to keep pursuing it "to seek justice for clean athletes."
"The Executive Committee was asked to decide on the next steps WADA should take in relation to the Operation Puerto case. The Committee asked WADA to continue pursuing all possible legal and other options with the aim to seek justice for clean athletes," it reads.
- Time line of Operacion Puerto
- Cyclingnews' full coverage of 2013 Operacion Puerto trial
- Fuentes found guilty in Operacion Puerto trial
- WADA struggling over legality of naming Operacion Puerto athletes
Operacion Puerto began over a decade ago back in 2006 following a raid on the offices of Dr Eufemiano Fuentes, which led to his arrest and the arrest of several others including Manolo Saiz – who was a directeur sportif at Liberty Seguros at the time. Fuentes was accused of blood doping cyclists and athletes from several other sports.
The scandal came just over a month before the Tour de France and engulfed several riders, including Jan Ulrich, Ivan Basso and Alejandro Valverde. While many names did quickly become known, there were many more that were not revealed.
Some 19 of 36 of Fuentes' clients remained unidentified, but in 2013 over 200 blood bags were located, giving the authorities hope of discovering their identity. Spanish authorities initially decided not to pass the bags over to WADA and other anti-doping authorities, however, their appeal was successful, and they gained access to them in June last year. Unfortunately, the statute of limitation had passed two years previously, preventing them from doling out any punishments.
The WADA executive committee is next due to meet in November 2017.