WADA lawyer asks Operation Puerto doping trial judge to make example of defendants
MADRID, Spain — The lawyer for the World Anti-Doping Agency wants the judge presiding over the Operation Puerto trial on Friday to impose harsh punishments to set an example.
Berta Aguinaga asked judge Julia Santamaria for “an exemplary sentencing that makes evident the will of Spanish authorities in the anti-doping fight.”
Doctors Eufemiano Fuentes and Yolanda Fuentes, former ONCE and Liberty Seguros team director Manolo Saiz, and Vicente Belda and Ignacio Labarta, both of the former Kelme team, face two years in jail if found guilty of having endangered the health of cyclists through blood transfusions designed to boost their performance.
They are being tried on public health charges since doping was not illegal in Spain when police investigations began in 2006. Spain has since passed anti-doping legislation, with an even stricter anti-doping bill to be voted on by Parliament this summer.
The long delay from the time of the original police investigation to the current trial has frustrated the World Anti-Doping Agency and tarnished Spain’s reputation in the fight against banned performance-enhancing substances.
“The relevance of this trial is global,” Aguinaga said. “If we are here eight years later it’s because the (defendants) have crossed far beyond the limits of clean sport.”
Also Friday, the lawyer for the Spanish cycling federation asked Santamaria to hand over the reported 200 blood bags currently held as evidence to anti-doping watchdogs for testing after the trial. WADA has already asked for the samples, and Spain’s own anti-doping agency has said it will do the same.
“Operation Puerto cannot be considered a success if those who took advantage of these methods to get undeserved victories aren’t disciplined,” said Cristina Quero, Spanish cycling federation’s lawyer.
Puerto has implicated more than 50 cyclists but only a few have been sanctioned. Fuentes has testified that he had clients from other sports, including football, tennis, boxing and athletics.
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