The doctor at the center of a long-running court investigation into widespread doping in cycling, as well as a number of other sports, has been sentenced today to a year in jail for public health offenses. Along with the sentence for Dr Eufemiano Fuentes, sports trainer José Ignacio Labarta was also given a four-month term. Neither of the pair will serve prison time, however, which is the norm in Spain with sentences under two years.
The case involving Fuentes, known as Operation Puerto, first hit the headlines back in 2006, when the Civil Guard staged a number of raids on addresses in Madrid, Zaragoza and El Escorial. As a result of their investigations, the authorities confiscated 200 bags of blood, which Fuentes and his co-defendants were alleged to have kept frozen or refrigerated, with the intention of later re-transfusing them into their donors to boost athletic performance.
Investigators also recovered tools for the extraction, conservation and transfusion of blood, while surveillance tapes recorded a large number of athletes entering the apartment block where Fuentes was based.
Statements made by witnesses who took the stand during the trial, which got underway at the end of January, revealed the extent to which doping was endemic in cycling. Cyclists Jörg Jaksche and Ivan Basso, for example, were quick to point the finger at the people behind the sport as those who encourage doping. “The same people that push us into doping later point the finger so that they can appear clean and look good in front of everybody,” said Jakshe during his testimony.
Basso, meanwhile, told the court that he had intended to use blood transfusions carried out by Fuentes before the 2006 Tour de France.
The defendants in the Operation Puerto trial were facing charges of crimes against public health, as doping was not outlawed in Spain until November 2006. The judge in charge of the case absolved the three other defendants: Fuentes' sister Yolanda, a former doctor to the Comunidad Valenciana cycling team, and the former sports directors Manuel Saiz (Liberty) and Vicente Belda (Kelme).