Antonio Serrano, the judge responsible for Operacion Puerto, has made his first summons to professional cyclists to declare in the case.
According to Spanish newspaper ?AS?, Alberto Contador and Jesus Hernandez, two riders initially implicated in Operacion Puerto but then cleared by the UCI of any involvement in the case, will appear before the judge – as witnesses – on December 11th. The reason why these two have the dubious honour of being the first riders to be summoned is apparently purely geographical: the two live in or near Madrid.
The riders, according to the judge?s own instructions, will be questioned about whether they were forced to take medicines – banned or otherwise – against their own will. They will also be asked if their ability as athletes was affected in a negative way by any such products. Given the doctors linked to Puerto, Eufemiano Fuentes and Jose Luis Merino Batres, face charges of offences against public health, doping as such will almost certainly not be on the agenda.
Serrano?s choice of two riders that have been cleared by the UCI of any involvement in Puerto was, to say the least, unexpected. Hernandez rode the Vuelta this September for his current team, Relax-Fuenlabrada, a right which was denied at the last minute to another rider implicated in Puerto, Saunier Duval?s Koldo Gil.
A winner of stages in the Tour of Poland, the Basque Country and the Tour of Romandy, Contador was one of the nine Astana riders due to take part in the Tour this year. But he was cleared of links with the anti-doping investigation shortly after.
Contador and Hernandez are the first riders of the 58 implicated to recieve an official summons, but they will almost certainly not be the last. An unspecified number of other riders will also have to declare in the coming weeks, probably at courts near their homes.