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The World Anti-Doping Agency has "voiced its disappointment" with Tuesday's decision by the judge in Spain's "Operation Puerto" doping trial to destroy all the evidence from the case instead of making it available to other sports bodies, according to Iain Rogers of REUTERS. WADA added that it is "considering an appeal." Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, the central figure in the trial, "was given a one-year prison term for endangering public health." The judge ordered the evidence, including bags of blood possibly belonging to athletes from sports other than cycling, "to be destroyed." The judge's decision not to release evidence for further investigation "damaged hopes that the case would unmask other athletes involved in illegal doping, and prompted widespread condemnation." WADA Dir General David Howman said in a statement, "WADA has carefully considered the decision rendered by the Criminal Court in Madrid in relation with the Operation Puerto. The decision to order the destruction of all the blood bags is particularly disappointing and unsatisfactory for WADA, and the whole anti-doping community" (REUTERS, 5/1).
PUSHING BACK: The AP reported Olympic officials "condemned" the decision to destroy the blood bags, saying that "it undermines efforts to catch the cheaters and uncover the full extent of one of the biggest drug scandals in sports." IOC Medical Commission Chair Arne Ljungqvist said, "It's fundamentally wrong from the point of view of conducting an efficient fight against doping." Judge Julia Santamaria "cited Spanish privacy laws for her decision not to turn over the evidence to anti-doping authorities." The ruling, unless overturned on appeal, "would prevent officials from identifying the doctor's blood-doping clients and pursuing disciplinary cases against them." Spain Anti-Doping Agency Head Ana Munoz said earlier that she would appeal. Munoz said, "For the Spanish Anti-Doping Agency it is very important to know the whole truth and, with this sentence, we only know a part of the truth" (AP, 5/1).
OLYMPIC WORRIES: The BBC's Matt Slater wrote all those "wire taps, police raids, disgraced cyclists, embarrassing headlines, internet rumours and failed Olympic bids resulted in a verdict that appears to only mildly inconvenience a doctor who doped dozens, perhaps hundreds, of cyclists and other athletes over the last 30 years." Santamaria's verdict "brings this chapter in the life of Fuentes to a close." However, it brings "no closure at all for cycling, Spain or any of the other athletes whose names have been implicated." The "combined effect of Operation Puerto, Alberto Contador's contaminated steak and the fact that Lance Armstrong, cycling's biggest drug cheat, based himself in Girona for several years has undermined Madrid's two previous attempts to follow Barcelona as an Olympic host." Will Operation Puerto "cost them a third time?" (BBC, 5/1).
COVER-UP? The BBC also reported British tennis player Andy Murray "has criticised Spanish officials for their handling of the Operation Puerto trial," asking if they could be guilty of the "biggest cover-up in sports history." Murray tweeted, "Case is beyond a joke. Why would court order blood bags to be destroyed? #coverup" (BBC, 5/1).
Verbal warfare "has broken out" between Australian trainers and their British counterparts over accusations that Black Caviar and other Royal Ascot winners from Down Under "may have been given steroids during their career," according to J.A. McGrath of the London TELEGRAPH. An "emotive peak in this ugly debate was reached" when Black Caviar trainer Peter Moody "was asked whether the mare had ever been given steroids." He replied, ''Nil. Steroids increase bulk. Black Caviar was a huge mare, from the day she was born. To give her steroids would have been absolutely counterproductive. She was tested 24 hours after arriving in Britain last summer and three days before her Ascot win. There was nothing in her system" (TELEGRAPH, 5/1). In Sydney, Matt Stewart reported the British Horseracing Authority has "refused to reveal if Black Caviar was treated with steroids before arriving at Asoct last June." Freedman tweeted: "Some Brits need to pipe down re Aussie horses at Ascot and not tar all. My Ascot winner was never given steroids. #mostwouldnt" Moody "took a swipe at 'lilywhite' English trainers." Moody: "They bang on about steroids, but they are the first to use Lasix when they campaign horses in the U.S." (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 5/1). The BBC reported Black Caviar "was tested prior to winning the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot last June." The BHA said: "There is no evidence to suggest that horses trained from outside Britain competing in this country have done so with the benefit of anabolic steroids" (BBC, 5/1).
COURSE OF ACTION: In London, Greg Wood reported Ascot senior execs said that the course "will continue to subsidise the travelling costs of horses from around the world to enable them to race at the track, regardless of the drugs policies in operation in their native jurisdictions." Ascot Int'l Racing Head Nick Smith said, "It's a rule thing. We don't make the rules, we couldn't stop them coming and as long as they are complying with the rules of racing, that's fine." He added, "It's not it's all of a sudden that it's been found out that steroids are sometimes used in Australia -- it's common knowledge. I understand that it's in the public eye now, but nothing has changed, our policies haven't changed" (GUARDIAN, 5/1).
HORSE MATTERS: In Sydney, Michael Lynch reported Racing Victoria's Head of Veterinary Services Brian Stewart estimated that about 40% of trainers "use steroids on their horses." Stewart said the controlling body does not have systems in place to monitor the use of steroids so the best he can do is produce a ''guesstimate'' on usage. Stewart: ''Perhaps a guesstimate might be that around 10 percent of trainers might use them consistently and perhaps 40 percent from time to time. I can't say with any certainty, so these figures have to be taken on that basis" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 5/2). Also in Sydney, Roots & McClymont reported racing stewards are investigating whether More Joyous, the horse at the center of the row between John Singleton and Gai Waterhouse, was "injected with an anti-arthritic drug five days before racing poorly at Randwick at the weekend." The champion mare "did not eat all her feed on Monday night after the injection of the drug pentosan polysulfate" (SMH, 5/2).
GAINING CONTROL: In Edinburgh, Stuart Bathgate reported two of Scotland’s leading trainers "have welcomed the eight-year ban on Godolphin’s Mahmood Al Zarooni as proof that British horseracing has the doping problem under control." Trainers Linda Perratt and Jim Goldie said that the ban "showed that the system of random testing produced results." Perratt said, "The British Horseracing Authority do a good job with the dawn raids that they do. You don’t have any prior warning that they’re coming in, they just turn up, and that’s a great thing for keeping everybody on their toes" (SCOTSMAN, 5/1).
A FRIEND REQUEST: In Abu Dhabi, Geoffrey Riddle wrote, "In a sensational twist to the Mahmoud Al Zarooni doping saga," the former Godolphin trainer "appeared to question whether to appeal" the eight-year ban handed out to him. At around 9pm UAE time, Al Zarooni wrote on his Facebook page: "Hello everybody. I have been advised to appeal the case, what are your opinions?" (NATIONAL, 4/30).
Saudi Arabia's Hafez Ibrahim Al Medlej made a late withdrawal from the Asian Football Confederation presidential election on Wednesday, "leaving three candidates in the running," according to the AFP. No reason was given for the pull-out in an AFC statement issued late on Wednesday, less than 24 hours before Thursday's vote, "but Medlej had earlier announced his intention to withdraw to avoid diluting the Arab vote" (AFP, 5/1). XINHUA reported the remaining three candidates, Bahrain FA chief Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, UAE FA Chair Yousuf Al Serkal and Thai FIFA Exec Committee member Worawi Makudi will compete for the new AFC chief "in the first presidential election since AFC's disgraced former boss Mohamed Bin Hammam was banned for electoral fraud." Backed by Olympic Council of Asia President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, Sheikh Salman is considered "a frontrunner of the race" (XINHUA, 5/1).
'BITTER CAMPAIGN': The BANGKOK POST reported the AFC will elect a new leader "after a bitter campaign dominated by claims and counter-claims of outside interference, and even allegations of rights abuses." All three candidates for the presidency have been accused, at some point, "of either corruption or allowing outside powers to meddle in the vote, tempering hopes of a new era of openness and transparency." If the battle has been hard-fought, "it's because the stakes are high: the AFC, the world's biggest football confederation, has significant revenues and influence across a vast region stretching from the Middle East to Oceania" (BANGKOK POST, 5/1). In Dubai, Yasir Abbasher wrote Al Serkal "looked relaxed, confident and brimming with high morale." Al Serkal: "Everything is going our way. We have held meetings with many delegations and the responses were positive. I am happy to say that we earned additional votes, which were not with us in the first phase" (GULF NEWS, 5/1). The AFP reported Al Serkal said that the "serious" allegations of vote-buying and interference needed to be probed, "and he warned that he could launch an appeal" if his bid for the AFC presidency fails (AFP, 5/1).
PLATINI'S PLEA: INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL's John Duerden wrote UEFA President Michel Platini "has called for Asia to put an end to its in-fighting." Platini said that "the chaos that has plagued Asian football since Mohamed Bin Hammam was banned for life had caused complications," but that it was now time to put an end to all the factions. Platini: "It's time to clean and move forward. It is up to the new president to unite Asia and UEFA is ready to help them" (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 5/1). INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL's Andrew Warshaw opined "claims and counter-claims, conspiracy theories bouncing back and forth, all manner of dirty tricks allegations -- and even FIFA intervention. Unity, what unity?" Less than 24 hours before the landmark ballot to elect a new leader for Asian football in succession to Mohamed bin Hammam, "the flak is flying like there is -- well -- no tomorrow, despite all the contenders stressing the need for much-needed stability in this most diverse and troubled of Continents" (INSIDE WORLD FOOTBALL, 5/1).
A total of 25% of the license applicants for the Austrian Bundesliga, which is in charge of the country's top two football leagues, "have failed to receive a license from the organization's license committe, Senat 5," according to LAOLA1. Eighteen of the 24 clubs that applied for a license "received one." Two Bundesliga clubs, Admira Wacker and Wacker Innsbruck, "have flunked at the evaluation process." From the second tier, Erste Liga, Hartberg and Vienna failed to receive a license, and from the third tier, Regionalliga, LASK and Austria Salzburg also missed out on a license. The six clubs "have 10 days to appeal the decision." The appeal committe will decide on the appeals by May 15. If a club is still without a license it can file a lawsuit at a neutral court, which will decide on the issue by May 31 (LAOLA1, 4/30).
BASKETBALL LICENSE: The DPA reported recently promoted second-division club Dusseldorf Baskets "failed to receive a license for the Basketball Bundesliga (BBL) after it appealed the league's orginial decision." The BBL announced that its licensing committee has upheld the leauge's original decision from April 17 to deny Dusseldorf a BBL license due to the club's failure "to prove its economic capability" (DPA, 4/30).