Cycling News Flash, February 15, 2008
Operación Puerto reopened in Spain
By Gregor Brown
The biggest doping investigation in international cycling – Operación Puerto – was called to be re-opened on Saint Valentine's Day, February 14, in Madrid. A Spanish court ordered that the blood doping investigation, which first hit the headlines in May 2006 and was shelved by Judge Antonio Serrano in March 2007, be re-visited according to Spanish paper El País.
Operación Puerto centred around Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, his assistant Merino Batres and the then-Team Manager of Liberty Seguros-Würth, Manolo Saiz, who were investigated after around 100 blood bags were found by the Spanish Guardia Civil in different locations believed belong to Fuentes and Batres. Code names, such as Birillo, Zapatero and Hijo Rudicio, and numbers were linked with some of cycling's biggest names, and the doctors were also believed to be involved with not only cycling, but also football and tennis.
To date only Italians Ivan Basso and Michele Scarponi, and German Jörg Jaksche have been issued a suspension due to the Puerto investigation, while other cyclists believed to be involved have escaped, such as 1997 Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich, who retired. However, the case was also believed to involve several other cyclists, including Alejandro Valverde, 2007 Tour winner Alberto Contador, Francesco Mancebo, Constantino Zaballa, Santiago Botero and Tyler Hamilton.
Earlier this month, the shelved case was pushed to be reopened by the International Cycling Union (UCI), the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and Spanish public prosecutors representing Spain's Superior Council of Sports (CSD) and the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC). The pressure stemmed from a World Conference on Doping in Sport meeting in November.
Operación Puerto will be actively investigated on two fronts, as it is not only opened in Spain, but in Italy, as the Italian Olympic Committee's (CONI) head anti-doping prosecutor Ettore Torri has opened an investigation.
The investigation started off slowly but the was brought to the greater public attention only days before the 2006 Tour de France Grand Départ in Strasbourg. Then Basso and Ullrich, as well has significant members of Team Astana, were sent home as Puerto documents were made available to the race organiser, ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation).
Please stay with Cyclingnews for more news and reactions as this story develops.
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'
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