Reports in the Spanish media on Saturday claim that the Operacion Puerto case is to be re-opened. Professional cyclists implicated in Spain?s biggest ever anti-doping investigation may be called as witnesses.
The reports state that the re-opening of Puerto, the third in a case which has dragged on for three years, is – thankfully – definitive.
Doping was not considered a criminal offence in Spain back in 2006 when news of Puerto broke. But eight individuals linked to cycling could face still charges against public health laws.
Former sports directors Manolo Saiz and Vicente Belda are the best-known of the eight. Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, considered be at the centre of the doping ring, is another big name.
The case has dragged on in the Spanish courts for nearly three years, with the original judge responsible for Puerto, Antonio Serrano, closing the case twice.
But this final appeal, made to a different judge, is definitive. According to El Pais newspaper, in a statement released on January 12th the judge argues that those involved in Puerto may have failed to keep the 200 blood bags discovered by police in May 2006 in the correct sanitary conditions.
The consequences for professional cycling are that the riders originally implicated in the case, a total of around 50, may be called as witnesses.
The riders will, under no circumstances, face criminal charges. But the sight of some top cyclists making sworn statements in Spanish courts about alleged doping activities would do no good to the sport?s crediblity whatsoever.
There are reports that once Puerto is finally concluded,, riders could be banned on evidence from the case. The UCI and WADA have been fighting to use the evidence since the Puerto case broke, but it has yet to be confirmed.