Madrid prosecutor to appeal Puerto verdict

Eufemiano Fuentes was at the center of Operacion Puerto

Eufemiano Fuentes was at the center of Operacion Puerto (Image credit: AFP Photo)

The office of Madrid prosecutor Eduardo Esteban has confirmed he will be lodging an appeal in the Provincial Court of Madrid against the verdict delivered in the Puerto trial at the end of April. According to El País, the prosecutor’s appeal will be made jointly with Spain’s Sports’ Council (the CSD), the World Anti-Doping Agency and the UCI.

When the trial concluded, presiding judge Julia Patricia Santamaria handed down a one-year suspended prison sentence to Eufemiano Fuentes, the doctor at the centre of the Puerto blood doping ring, for a crime against public health and banned him from practising sports medicine for four years. Fuentes’ fellow defendant Ignacio Labarta was given a four-month suspended sentence, while Yolanda Fuentes, Vicente Belda and former ONCE team manager Manolo Saiz were all acquitted.

At the same time, the judge rejected requests from anti-doping authorities and international sports federations for permission to analyse 211 blood bags that were seized during the investigation in order to identify the athletes involved. The judge ruled the seizure of the blood bags had violated the fundamental rights of those accused in the Puerto case.

The prosecutor will be requesting that the sentence imposed on Fuentes be extended to two years and that Saiz also be handed the same sentence based on the fact that the crime involved was not an isolated incident but was ongoing. In addition, the prosecutor will claim that the concept of sports medicine does not exist in Spanish law and therefore the four-year ban imposed on Fuentes should be extended to all medical practice and not solely sports medicine, as laid down in the sentence. He will also request that Labarta’s sentence be increased as he was a “necessary accomplice” in blood doping.

With regard to the blood bags, the prosecutor’s office declared: “If you destroy the blood bags, it would set a dangerous precedent of impunity for those athletes who dope.” The statement added the prosecutor’s office does not believe that the rights of the accused were violated, and will argue that the bags were obtained with backing from the Spanish courts.

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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).