A Spanish judge rules that 211 blood bags seized during Operation Puerto in 2006 should be handed over to sports authorities to determine athletes identities

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A judge in the Provincial Court of Madrid has ruled that those athletes implicated in the Operation Puerto investigation can be identified by agreeing to hand over seized blood bags to sports authorities.

In a ruling on Tuesday, Judge Alejandro Maria Benito ordered that the 211 blood bags seized in 2006 to be delivered to the Spanish cycling federation, the UCI, WADA and the Italian Olympic Committee, among others.

Researchers suggested that the blood bags belonged to 35 different athletes, many of them cyclists, of which only a handful have been punished for doping. Authorities will be able to analyse the blood bags against DNA stored from athletes who have ever passed a drugs test.

The decision comes just three weeks after the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Puerto investigation, meaning that no athlete implicated can be sanctioned due to the new statute of limitations set out by WADA.

As well as ordering the release of the blood bags, the judge also acquitted the doctor at the heart of the investigation, Eufemiano Fuentes, and three others involved for crimes against public health.

Manolo Saiz, Vicente Belda and Yolanda Fuentes were all acquitted when the judge reportedly ruled that blood in not a medicinal product. This means that Fuentes and his sister can return to working as sports doctors if they wish.

Alejandro Valverde, Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso and Jörg Jacksche are among the only cyclists to have been punished for working with Dr Fuentes.