It looks like Operación Puerto, the biggest doping scandal in pro cycling in recent years, is finally over - and a failure. The International Cycling Union (UCI), as well as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), amongst others, had appealed the Madrid judge's decision according to which the blood bags found by the Guardia Civil could not be released to the international institutions.
But on Friday, the Provincial court of Madrid dismissed the appeal, which would have opened the possibility of officially identifying and sanctioning more riders involved in the case. This decision seems to be final, as Spanish press reports suggest that there are no more recourse possibilities.
The appeal was made after the Madrid criminal court, on April 15 this year, denied delivering the testimonials of the case, or samples of the bags that contained blood, blood plasma and cells, to the anti-doping authorities. The public prosecutor, as well as the UCI, WADA, and the Spanish cycling federation RFEC, appealed this decision in their ongoing bid to make all the identities of the anti-doping violators known and be able open disciplinary proceedings against them.
Their appeal was rejected a first time on June 2, and renewed as more institutions, notably the national and international cycling teams associations, joined in another appeal in July. But now, the decision not to release the case evidence for disciplinary purposes seems final.
Operación Puerto began in May 2006 when the Spanish Civil Guard arrested Madrid doctor Eufemiano Fuentes and Liberty Seguros manager Manolo Saiz, amongst others, after having found massive amounts of doping products and blood doping evidence in an apartment belonging to Fuentes.
The doping ring was said to involve more than 200 athletes, amongst which 34 cyclists were named. Of these, 15 were later acquitted of any wrongdoings, and three admitted their ties to Fuentes.