MADRID (AFP) — The Operation Puerto doping trial involving Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes and four co-accused is set to conclude on Tuesday, with Judge Julia Patricia Santamaria set to give her ruling on whether the five were guilty of endangering public health.
Fuentes is on trial with his sister and fellow doctor Yolanda, as well as Manolo Saiz, Vicente Belda, and Ignacio Labarta who held various positions in the Liberty Seguros and Kelme cycling teams.
The latter three are accused of facilitating Fuentes’ involvement with riders in their teams, while it is claimed that Eufemiano and Yolanda Fuentes performed blood transfusions and stored and transported blood bags in a manner that represented a health risk to those undergoing the treatment.
All five face up to two years in prison should they be found guilty.
The trial marks a landmark moment in Spain’s fight against doping and how the seriousness with which it is treated by the Spanish authorities is viewed from outside its borders.
The failure to disclose a full list of those who were clients of Fuentes prior to his arrest in 2006 has led many to accuse Santamaria of a lack of transparency.
However, Santamaria’s problem throughout the 10-week long trial, which concluded at the beginning of April, was balancing the contrasting elements between the trial many wanted to see and that which was actually brought before her.
Fuentes and his co-accused are not on trial for any type of doping offense, as doping was not a criminal offence at the time of their arrest.
Legislation was subsequently introduced, but in light of the trial and Madrid’s bid for the 2020 Olympics, a new law has been drafted by the Spanish government that will bring Spanish law in line with the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) code on doping.
During the trial, former cyclists Jesus Manzano and Tyler Hamilton both gave evidence saying they fell ill while riding after receiving treatments from Fuentes.
Hamilton also claimed that another former cyclist, Alberto Leon, performed a transfusion on him with a blood bag handed down by Fuentes despite having no medical training whatsoever.
However, arguably just as important than the sentences, if any, that Santamaria chooses to hand down is whether she will allow the blood bags confiscated and preserved since 2006 to be handed to WADA, as they have requested, so that those treated by Fuentes outside the world of cycling can be identified.