Operación Puerto verdict due today in Madrid
Defendants facing two-and-a-half year prison sentences
Seven years after the Spanish doping probe began, a verdict is set to be delivered later today in the Operación Puerto case in which Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes and four co-accused face accusations of endangering public health.
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The five defendants, Fuentes, his sister Yolanda, former Kelme manager Vicente Belda, former Kelme trainer Ignacio Labarta and former ONCE and Liberty Seguros team manager Manolo Saiz face maximum sentences of two-and-a-half years in prison if found guilty, although regardless of the verdict, there is likely to be an appeal.
Fuentes argued that "The law only demands that the locations are hygienic," and said the locations the transfusions were performed "met the minimum requirements laid out by the law".
The prosecution's experts disagreed, in particular after hearing testimony from Tyler Hamilton - who spoke of his urine turning black after a botched transfusion - or from Jesus Manzano, who claimed to be near death after a similar experience.
News of the Operación Puerto investigation first broke in May 2006, with the arrests of Fuentes and Saiz, while a number of Fuentes clients, including Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso, were prevented from starting that year's Tour de France.
Other riders who later faced sporting sanctions for their links to Fuentes include Alejandro Valverde and Michele Scarponi, although many of his clients have not been formally identified and criminal proceedings have moved slowly. Operación Puerto finally went to trial in January of this year and the hearing took place in 23 sessions, from January 28 to April 2.
The 216 blood bags seized during Operación Puerto - which belong to 36 different athletes, are currently in storage in Barcelona's anti-doping laboratory. Judge Julia Patricia Santamaría is set to reveal on Tuesday whether the relevant sporting authorities will be allowed to cross-check the DNA of the blood bags in order to identity all of the Fuentes clients.
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