Destruction of Operacion Puerto blood bags would be 'hard blow for anti-doping fight'

Enrique Gomez Bastida said that the possible destruction of more than 200 bags of blood seized during Operacion Puerto would be "a hard blow"

Enrique Gomez Bastida, head of Spain's Anti-Doping Agency (AEPSAD), has publicly criticised the possibility that blood bags seized in a raid on notorious doctor Eufemiano Fuentes may be destroyed, saying it would be "a hard blow for our anti-doping fight."

Gomez Bastida, as an officer in the Guardia Civil, was an instrumental part of Operacion Puerto, the 2006 Spanish police operation formed to investigate the doping network surrounding Dr Fuentes, which implicated Alejandro Valverde, Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich, among others.

As many as 220 bags of blood were seized from Dr Fuentes' lab and are currently in the custody of the anti-doping lab in Barcelona. A court ruling on the fate of the blood bags is expected soon and Gomez Bastida fears that crucial evidence of doping may be destroyed and lost forever.

Gomez Bastida, speaking to El Mundo (in Spanish), said: “if I weren't in the position of director of the agency, I would be satisfied, because at the time [of the Puerto investigation] the sporting aspect was not the central issue.”

“Now that I’m not a police officer, I’ve got a different perspective and it [a verdict ordering the bags to be destroyed] would be a hard blow because it’s important to send a clear message in the anti-doping struggle. It’s important that those implicated recognise the facts.”

Unless AEPSAD is successful in its appeal - which is supported by WADA - against an April 2013 ruling by Judge Julia Patricia Santamaria that the blood bags should be destroyed, their potential ability to identify unknown collaborators with Dr Fuentes will be lost.

If the blood bags are released rather than destroyed, AEPSAD will oversee the identification process. But this would be very difficult as DNA samples will be required, which many riders may refuse. Gomez Bastida suggested there may even be riders who “perhaps did not even know that Fuentes was their doctor, because their sports directors were in charge of the procedure”, further complicating matters.

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