Operation Puerto probe reopened in Spain

Indications of "an offence against public health"

Spanish justice is to re-open the Operation Puerto probe into blood doping in cycling which a judge had left on file last September, El Pais newspaper reported Saturday.

A provincial court in Madrid has ruled that there were indications of "an offence against public health" which merited renewed examination and had therefore called for the investigation to be re-activated, according to El Pais.

On September 29, 2008, examining magistrate Antonio Serrano ruled the investigation should lie on file, having already done so initially in March 2007 on the grounds that Spain's new anti-doping laws could not be applied retroactively to May 2006.

In the first instance, the prosecution appealed and the affair was re-opened.

The prosecutor's office then appealed anew following the September decision.

Since the affair came to light, Spain has passed legislation earmarking jail terms for doping offences on the grounds that it is a matter for safeguarding public health.

Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, former doctor for the Kelme team, is alleged to have been the mastermind of a vast blood doping network, dubbed 'Operation Puerto' in May 2006 following a police raid on his Madrid laboratory which uncovered doping products and 100 bags of blood products .

Police raided several residences and uncovered hundreds of doses of anabolic steroids, blood products, a list of cyclists the samples were apparently being prepared for and also machines to transfuse them.

While names of around 200 'clients' from the world of sport were reportedly found, only a few have been sanctioned. Among riders caught up in the affair were former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich and 2006 Giro d'Italia winner Ivan Basso.

© BikeRadar & AFP 2009

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