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The World Anti-Doping Agency says it has its hands tied by rules when it comes to revealing the names of athletes linked to the Operación Puerto blood-doping ring.
WADA confirmed via its annual report it successfully identified 11 athletes via DNA testing from blood samples taken during Puerto raids back in 2006.
The never-ending saga, however, seems to have finally hit a dead-end due a 10-year statute of limitations that prevents the revelation of those names.
“In total, 11 athletes (10 male and one female) have been identified through this process as clients of Dr. [Eufemiano] Fuentes,” the WADA report stated. “However, due to the 10-year statute of limitations having elapsed, names can no longer be made public.”
WADA did not reveal which sports the samples were linked to, though last year it confirmed that four athletes were still active.
This final footnote is a frustrating end to the long-running Puerto saga. Back in 2006, Spain’s Guardia Civil raided apartments and labs as part of a far-reaching doping ring said to involve hundreds of cyclists and other athletes. A cache of performance-enhancing drugs, diaries and blood bags were part of the evidence collected from ring-leader Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes.
The case finally ended up in Spanish courts in 2013, but the proceedings were caught in a kind of legal purgatory. At the time of the raids, doping in sport was not considered a punishable crime by Spanish law. Judges limited the range of what prosecutors could pursue in their subsequent investigations. Spain has since passed an anti-doping law, but it could not be retroactively applied to the Puerto case, leaving WADA and other anti-doping agencies with their hands tied.
WADA, however, pressed on trying to identify athletes linked to the 215 bags of blood and serum that were collected as part of the raids. Using DNA testing, WADA said it successfully identified 11 names. WADA confirmed it cannot reveal the names due a 10-year statute of limitations that is part of its own legal code.
A handful of pro cyclists were issued racing bans or admitted links to Fuentes. Current world champion Alejandro Valverde, who was linked via DNA testing to one of the bags stored by Fuentes, and served a two-year ban. Others who admitted working with Fuentes included Thomas Dekker, Ivan Basso, Tyler Hamilton, Michele Scarponi, Jan Ullrich, and Jörg Jaksche.