Operación Puerto revived, Fuentes facing jail

More than five years on from the police raids on a Madrid clinic that alerted the public to the Operación Puerto doping investigation, six people will be on trial facing charges for crimes against public health.

The Court of Instruction #31 has wrapped up its investigation into the matter, and has issued an order to bring the case to court. Prosecutors called for two-year prison sentences for those involved: the doctor who ran the clinic in which police found hundreds of bags of stored blood, doping products and coded paperwork linking the blood to riders, Eufemiano Fuentes, will face judge Julián Camarillo, along with his sister Yolanda, doctors José Luis Merino and Alfredo Córdova as well as team managers Manolo Saiz, José Ignacio Labarta and Vicente Belda.

In 2009, the case looked to be officially over with no prosecutions coming from the Spanish courts or sporting federation for the dozens of athletes linked to the clinic by the documents.

Judge Arturo Beltran refused to continue with the case since at the time of the raid, doping was not illegal in Spain. The laws have since been made more strict, and Beltran ordered further examination of the case on the public health angle.The case was reviewed again in March of this year.

Fuentes also faced charges in a separate inquiry last year, Operation Greyhound, which involved doping of track and field athletes.

The Operación Puerto case proved that professional cyclists were not only participating in autologous blood doping, but through EPO-testing on the stored blood, it was shown that they were using the blood booster to up their hematocrit prior to withdrawing blood to re-infuse prior to races. The resulting increase in oxygen-carrying red blood cells provided a performance boost.

Despite the UCI and WADA receiving dossiers of evidence linking cyclists to Fuentes' doping ring, only a handful of riders were suspended in the case. Michele Scarponi admitted to his involvement, as did Ivan Basso (although he claims never to have infused the blood).

Jan Ullrich and Alejandro Valverde were linked to evidence through DNA testing, and the latter was finally suspended for his involvement after a lengthy battle last year.

So far, the people involved in running the clinic and the team directors who were allegedly involved in assisting their riders in doping, have gone unpunished.

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