By Andrew Hood
Officials from the Spanish cycling federation are asking for records and test results from the recently re-opened Operación Puerto doping investigation that could lead to possible racing bans, the Spanish sports daily AS reported in its Tuesday edition.
Citing unnamed sources, the paper reported that the federation requested blood test results and documentation from a Madrid court Monday. That information could be used to issue racing bans for cyclists and technical staff involved in the alleged blood-doping ring.
Officials from the Spanish cycling federation (RFEC) did not comment, but told Reuters that it may post an official statement on its web page.
According to the AS report, the federation has solicited a complete report and documentation, which revealed names implicated in the alleged doping ring uncovered by Spain’s Guardia Civil in raids in labs and apartments in May 2006.
Officials are also asking for toxicology reports conducted by doctors in Barcelona that detected the banned blood booster EPO in eight bags as well as access to 99 bags of blood and plasma found in labs used by alleged ringleaders, Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes and Merino Batres.
Spanish authorities want to match the bags against samples collected by the UCI to try to match the blood samples to specific riders.
Previous efforts by the Spanish cycling federation and the UCI to gain access to the blood bags and other evidence were previously blocked by a Spanish court.
The situation has changed following a January 12 decision by a higher court to move forward with oral testimony from Fuentes, Batres and six others, including former Liberty Seguros manager Manolo Saiz.
The decision and subsequent hearings could bring new light to the mystery surrounding the alleged Puerto blood doping ring that implicated nearly 60 riders as well as allegedly athletes from other sports.
So far, only Ivan Basso, Michele Scarponi and Jorg Jaksche have served racing bans after admitting to working with the Fuentes network. Giampaolo Caruso won an appeal to avoid a ban.
Last fall, Frank Schleck (Saxo Bank) was also linked to the scandal, but he avoided a racing ban after Luxembourg authorities decided that Schleck only “consulted” with Fuentes despite transferring more than 7,000 euros into an account owned by the Spanish doctor.
Spanish riders have so far avoided persecution, but that’s changing as Italian authorities go after Alejandro Valverde. Officials from CONI insist they have proof that Valverde is linked to Puerto scandal and are threatening him with a two-year racing ban and possible jail time.
This new effort by Spanish authorities could tilt the balance dramatically and lead to a new round of racing bans for the Puerto scandal dating back nearly three years.