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Spanish Judge Re-Awakens Puerto Scandal

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June 14, 2016 – A Spanish court ruled Tuesday that authorities be given access to blood bags seized as part of a major doping probe, which may allow them to identify sportspeople implicated in the so-called Operation Puerto scandal.

AFP/Yuzuru Sunada

The Madrid court ruled that the bags be handed over to entities such as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in the blood-doping investigation that affects cycling and other sports, overruling a 2013 decision by a judge to destroy them on privacy grounds.

“The stated aim is to fight doping,” the court said in a statement, adding that there was “a risk that other sportspeople could be tempted by doping”. The decision comes over three years after a judge found a doctor called Eufemiano Fuentes guilty of endangering public health by performing blood transfusions on top cyclists.

So far only cyclists, including 1997 Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich, have been publicly named as being Fuentes clients, however the doctor admitted during the trial to have worked with footballers, tennis players and boxers. But the judge had refused to give WADA or any other anti-doping authority access to the 211 blood bags seized in 2006 from Fuentes’ apartments in police raids, which could identify other sportsmen implicated in the scandal.

Instead she ordered the bags of blood to be destroyed — a decision WADA, the International Cycling Union and others appealed. But in its decision, the Madrid court also absolved Fuentes of endangering public health, on the grounds that the blood he used for transfusions was not medicine and thus did not come under the remit of that offence.