Court reopens 'Operacion Puerto' case

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15.02.2008/ A Spanish court ordered the reopening of 'Operacion Puerto', a widespread doping probe that has implicated cyclists like Ivan Basso, Jörg Jaksche and more then 50 other cyclists. Its rumoured that among the clients of the doping network of Spanish doctor were also athletes of other sports like football (soccer) players, tennis players and track and field athletes.
Judge Antonio Serrano of the court of Madrid had closed the case last year without issuing any indictments because Spain's new doping law was not in force when the case started. But now the court asked investigating judge Antonio Serrano to order a report into the risks of conserving blood in conditions not regulated by the health service.

© Cyclingheroes
Ivan Basso admitted his involvement in the Puerto case (© Cyclingheroes)

Investigating judge Antonio Serrano of the court of Madrid closed the case in March 2007 but the state prosecution appealed against his decision. Serrano motivated his decision saying that despite there being proof of doping practices, there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.

Yesterday the court of appeal decided to re-open the case although the court agreed on with the original ruling that neither the cyclists nor those who gave them doping substances were guilty of offences under the Spanish law in force when the inquiry began.

The court gave back the case to judge Antonio Serrano and asked Serrano to order a report into the risks of conserving blood in conditions not regulated by the health service.

The court of appeal also said that the involved athletes will not face criminal charges but they could be punished by sports authorities if its proofen that they are involved in the doping case.

Doping was not punishable under Spanish law when the charges were brought in May 2006. The news anti-doping law was approved by Spanish parliament after the case started. In his original decision to close the case Serrano said the case was not subject to new tougher legislation introduced to deal with people who supply and administer drugs in sport.

Operation Puerto was launched after raids in Madrid and Zaragoza, where police found large quantities of anabolic steroids, laboratory equipment used for blood transfusions and more than 200 bags of code-named blood, some of which were linked to leading cyclists and athletes of other sports. A year later Spanish media reported that about 100 of the blood bags were missing. In 2007 German media reported that the court of investigation never investigated the notebooks and computer hard discs of Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. The notebooks and hard discs were confiscated during the raids in May 2006. Former Liberty Seguros team manager Manolo Saiz, Eufemiano Fuentes and his colleague José Luis Merino Batres and others were arrested during the raids. They were released on bail after being held in custody for a few days.

The former sporting director of the now defunct Liberty Seguros team, Manolo Saiz, doctor Eufemiano Fuentes and his colleague Jose Luis Merino Batres were among those questioned by police.

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