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Spanish tribunal to re-open Operation Puerto

Spain's biggest doping investigation is to be re-opened by a provincial court in Madrid, a judicial source has said. The Operation Puerto doping case started in May 2006, and involved some of the most famous road cyclists.

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AFP - Spanish justice is to re-open the Operation Puerto probe into blood doping in cycling, Spain's biggest doping investigation, which a judge had left on file last September, a judicial source said Monday.

A provincial court in Madrid on January 12 revoked its September decision to shelve the case because it said there were indications that an offence against public health laws had taken place, the source told AFP.

Public prosecutors, the Spanish Sports Council (CSD), and the Spanish Cycling Federation, the International Cyclign Union and the World Anti-Doping Agency were amongst those calling for the probe to be re-opened.

Dr Eufemiano Fuentes, former doctor for the Kelme team, is alleged to have been the mastermind of a vast blood doping network, following a police raid on his Madrid laboratory in May 2006 which uncovered doping products and 100 bags of blood products .

Police raided several residences and uncovered hundreds of doses of anabolic steroids, blood products, a list of cyclists the samples were apparently being prepared for and also machines to transfuse them.

Although around 200 athletes from various sports were initially said to have been involved, the subsequent investigation focused solely on the 50-60 cyclists alleged to be implicated in the network.

Italian star Ivan Basso was the biggest victim of an investigation which also led, indirectly, to the retirement of former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich of Germany.

Basso admitted to being implicated in the affair and has recently returned from a two-year ban. He was snared by a codename on a blood bag, labelled with the name of his dog 'Birillo'.

Ullrich denied all involvement, but suspicions - and a positive DNA match on blood found at Fuentes' laboratory - ultimately led to the German's decision to hang up his bike before any serious sanction could be handed down.

Since the affair came to light, Spain has passed legislation earmarking jail terms for doping offences on the grounds that it is a matter for safeguarding public health.

But on September 29, examining magistrate Antonio Serrano ruled the investigation should lie on file, having already done so initially in March 2007 on the grounds that Spain's new anti-doping laws could not be applied retroactively to May 2006.

In the first instance, the prosecution appealed and the affair was re-opened.

The prosecutor's office then appealed anew following the September decision.

 

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