A Madrid court has ruled that blood bags used as evidence in a major Spanish doping scandal must be handed over to authorities for investigation.
The Spanish court said on Tuesday it will order blood samples bags containing blood samples and plasma should be handed over to the Spanish Cycling Federation, the World Anti-Doping Agency, the International Cycling Union and Italy's Olympic Committee.
This development happened a decade after Operation Puerto revealed a doping network that involved some of the world's top cyclists when police seized coded blood bags from the Madrid-based clinic of sports doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. Police seized 211 coded blood bags from the clinic of Dr Eufemiano Fuentes. The bags belonged to athletes who received treatments from the doctor but Fuentes has refused to confirm whether the anonymous athletes were doping or not.
It was remarked by the court that the recent ruling took into account that the goal is to fight against doping, which goes against sport's ethical values. The court added not ordering the bags to be made available would have generalized the danger of other sports people being tempted to dope themselves and sent a negative social message that the end justifies the means. The court also absolved Fuentes and a former cycling team director who were given suspended sentences in the 2013 trial for endangering public health. It remarked the blood samples could not be considered medication.
Spanish anti-doping agency director Enrique Gomez Bastida welcomed the court ruling. Bastida remarked we express satisfaction with the decision and added we are examining it thoroughly in order to evaluate possible joint future actions with the anti-doping organizations involved in the judicial process.
WADA President Craig Reedie said the anti-doping agency is very pleased with the decision of the court to release the blood bags. Reedie added we will now be speaking to the other parties who appealed in the case to decide how to proceed and also remarked we have to see what the implications are regarding the statute of limitations. An eight-year statute was in place in 2006 when this scandal first emerged and the period was recently extended to 10 years.
More than 50 cyclists were originally associated with the case. Some cyclists were eventually suspended including former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich, Spanish Vuelta champion Alejandro Valverde, and Ivan Bass.
Judge Julia Patricia Santamaria ruled in 2013 that the blood bags should be destroyed. Fuentes was given a suspended one-year prison sentence for endangering public health but it was later overturned. The bags have since then been stored in an anti-doping laboratory in Barcelona.
Spain was declared as "non-compliant" by the World Anti-Doping Agency this year as the country failed to match its global code because of its failure to make required law changes on doping. Following elections last year, the country was not able to form a government and the parliament was unable to update the country's anti-doping legislation to satisfy the revised WADA regulations. Recently, the accreditation of the Madrid drug-testing lab was suspended by WADA.