Spanish daily El País has reported that in January Madrid’s Provincial Court will publish its verdict on the appeals made by, amongst others, WADA and the UCI against the initial sentences in the Operación Puerto anti-doping probe.
The as-yet-unconfirmed newspaper report claims that the verdict will also make it clear whether the dozens of blood bags that formed part of the Puerto evidence and and which are currently stored at a Barcelona anti-doping lab will be released.
The original Puerto trial verdict in April 2013 decreed that the blood bags - said to total between 150 and 200 and belonging to up to 35 different athletes, many unidentified and a high proportion of which are believed to be cyclists - would have to be destroyed. Only an appeal, like the one that has been grinding its way through the Spanish courts, would reverse that order.
Although there’s a saying that the wheels of justice run slowly, to say this point in the Puerto case has been a long time coming would be no understatement. After the case was initially closed and then re-opened on appeal, Puerto took nearly eight years to come to its first trial and by January next year it will be nearly a decade since the arrests and seizes of banned materials were made in the anti-doping probe were carried out.
However, according to El País, the judges presiding the appeal were expected to reach a verdict in late November, although this has yet to be confirmed officially and the sentence itself will take several weeks to be published.
The lengthy time lapse, in any case, will have a considerable knock-on effect on whether any hypothetical identification of athletes whose blood bags were seized back in 2006 has any real consequences.
The statute of limitations for doping cases is, according to WADA’s revised 2015 code, increased to 10 years. But so far it is not clear whether this newly revised limit applies to cases, like Puerto, that arise from before January 1st 2015 - and which in Puerto’s case, would be directly affected by an increase in that retro-active time period.
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