Operacion Puerto verdict expected on April 30

Spanish court should hand down Puerto verdicts next week

MADRID (VN) — More than six years after the investigation launched, a Spanish court will hand down verdicts in the long-running Operación Puerto trial next week.

According to reports in the Spanish media, presiding judge Julia Patricia Santamaría has reached a verdict and has called lawyers and five defendants to a Madrid courthouse on April 30.

The five defendants face up to two years in prison, fines, and possible bans from practicing medicine if found guilty on charges of endangering public health as part of the doping scandal that rocked the peloton in 2006.

Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, his sister Yolanda, former ONCE manager Manolo Saiz, and former Kelme manager Vicente Belda and trainer Ignacio Labarta each face charges. Former hematologist Merino Batres was excused from the trial because he is suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Following two months of sometimes-riveting testimony, which closed April 2, the judge took less than a month to reach a decision.

The judge is also expected to make a decision on the fate of 200 blood bags still being held in a Barcelona freezer. Officials from the World Anti-Doping Agency have requested access to the bags to try to determine who else Fuentes was working with.

Santamaría’s decision is an important step in a saga that has haunted cycling and threatened to spill over into other sports, but the story might not end there, with the ruling subject to appeal to a higher Spanish court.