WADA Expresses Disappointment With Operation Puerto Verdict, Considers Appeal
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).