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By Andrew Hood
Cycling could be thrown into tumult yet again as the UCI said it’s poised to release more names linked to the ongoing “Operación Puerto” doping investigation in Spain.
Reacting from pressure from the top ProTour teams – which met last week in Brussels to demand the UCI release all names linked to inquiry ahead of this weekend’s start of the Vuelta a España – the UCI is expected to reveal even more names connected to controversial Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.
The French sports daily L’Equipe reported that the new list could include as many as an additional 50 names from 14 squads, seven of which are part of the ProTour league.
“It will be responsibility of each team to decide whether or not their rider or riders should be excluded from competition,” McQuaid told the paper. “Not all riders were involved to the same degree and some of them may not necessarily need to be punished.”
It’s not clear if the names will be publicly released or if Vuelta organizers will be directly notified. Not all names linked to the investigation are suspected of wrongdoing, but teams insisted on knowing who’s in the police report to avoid another last-minute media circus that engulfed the Tour de France last month.
The Tour was decapitated just 24 hours before its start when nine riders from four teams were kicked out after UCI and race officials deemed there was enough evidence to at least raise the suspicion there might be alleged links to Fuentes.
Jan Ullrich and Oscar Sevilla have each been fired from T-Mobile and Ullrich is currently facing an investigation by the Swiss cycling federation, where he holds a racing license.
Giro d’Italia winner Ivan Basso has been suspended by Team CSC pending a hearing later this month before the Italian cycling federation. Francisco Mancebo, meanwhile, was also fired by Ag2r after his name was linked to the investigation.
Five riders from Astana – Sergio Paulinho, Isidro Nozal, Alberto Contador, Allan Davis and Joseba Beloki – were also linked to Fuentes, but have since been cleared by Spanish authorities, though the UCI is still holding judgment pending further review.
Last week, McQuaid told VeloNews three UCI lawyers have been pouring through more than 500 pages of documents handed over by Spanish investigators.
“Our legal department is working through the documents. Some pages have gone out. The Basso pages have gone to Italy and the Ullrich stuff to Switzerland,” he said. “It’s been a huge amount of work involved in it. It’s a 500-page document with names all over the place. It’s a police report, it’s not like the documents we are used to working with. It’s new ground. It’s taken three lawyers almost working full-time to get through this.”