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Italian anti-doping authorities reopen Puerto investigation

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10.01.2008/ 'Operacion Puerto has been in limbo for more than a year and a half now but Italian anti-doping authorities of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) reopened the investigation.  CONI affirmed that it has the powers to investigate if non-Italians riders and doctors have committed anti-doping offences and can ban them from competing in Italy.

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CONI opened a disciplinary inquiry Wednesday into Eufemiano Fuentes, the doctor allegedly at the heart of the 'Operacion Puerto' doping scandal. CONI announced at its website that it recently received legal papers from Spanish authorities that raided several private houses and clinics in Madrid in May 2006 and found bags of blood, blood transfusion equipment and various performance enhancing drugs.

CONI said it would call in Fuentes for a hearing in Rome before its anti-doping prosecuter Ettore Torri. Another doctor, Merino Batres will also be called in. The doctors could skip the hearings, which are scheduled for February. CONI also wants to question non-Italian athletes and for them it could become a problem to skip the hearings. CONI indicated that whoever refuses to be questioned could be banned from competing or working in Italy. This would have huge consequences for the 2008 season because apart from high ranked Italian races like Milano-San Remo, Giro d'Italia and Giro di Lombardi, the 2008 route of the Tour de France will visit Italy and this years UCI Road World Championships are scheduled to be held in Varese.

CONI said that 'Operacion Puerto' will now face "the real sports justice that no other country carried out." Last summer CONI banned 2006 overall Giro d'Italia winner Ivan basso for 18 months after the Italian rider admitted his involvement in the Puerto scandal. Other riders who are allegedly involved in the case have gone unpunished.

CONI said that Fuentes and Batres could also face criminal investigation in Italy, where there is an anti-doping law. The committee provided the state prosecution of Rome with documents about the case.

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