Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, on trial for allegedly masterminding a doping ring in cycling, will not be obliged to identify any of the clients whose frozen blood was found in bags seized by police, the judge in the case ruled on Wednesday.
On his second day on the stand, Fuentes, who denies involvement in doping, said he could identify to whom the blood in the numbered bags belonged, prompting a request by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), represented at the trial in Madrid, that he do so in court.
Judge Julia Santamaria said she would not prevent him from revealing the names but would not force him to do so, saying it would infringe the rights of those implicated. Fuentes and four other defendants, including his sister Yolanda, are appearing in court almost seven years after anabolic steroids, transfusion equipment and blood bags were seized as part of a investigation code-named “Operation Puerto”. The closely-watched and much-delayed trial began on Monday and when Fuentes took the stand on Tuesday he told the judge he had clients in sports other than cycling, including soccer, tennis, athletics and boxing. The proceedings have attracted international scrutiny because anti-doping authorities, who along with CONI and several sporting organisations are taking part in the trial, are hopeful it will finally lead to evidence of wrongdoing by athletes in other sports being made available. A World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) request for access to the blood bags has been repeatedly denied by the Spanish authorities, and the body await the judge’s ruling on their latest petition made this week.
Fuentes did reveal the name of one client on Wednesday, identifying former rider Jose Javier Gomez, now the president of Spain’s association of professional cyclists (ACP) and the director general of a government foundation that promotes sport for young people.
Fuentes also told the court he was aware that abnormally high levels of erythropoietin (EPO) had been found in eight of the 92 blood bags seized in 2006 but said he had nothing to do with the presence of the artificial hormone.
“No product was ever added to the blood except legally established preservatives,” Fuentes said. “Such a small quantity (of EPO) can have no other explanation than that it was the remnants of a previous treatment.” Prohibited by anti-doping authorities since the early 1990s, EPO can help athletic performance by increasing the concentration of red cells and improving the amount of oxygen blood can carry to the body’s muscles.
Doctor had clients in soccer and tennis
Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, accused of masterminding a doping ring in cycling, told a court on Tuesday he also had clients in other sports including soccer, tennis, athletics and boxing after finally taking the stand in a high-profile and much-delayed trial. Fuentes and four other defendants are appearing before a Madrid judge almost seven years after police seized anabolic steroids, transfusion equipment and blood bags as part of a investigation code-named “Operation Puerto”. The trial has attracted close international scrutiny because anti-doping authorities, who are represented in court, are hopeful it will finally lead to evidence of wrongdoing by athletes in sports other than cycling being made available. Legal experts say it could also change the way doping issues are dealt with by criminal justice systems around the world. Fuentes, who denies doping, was due to be cross-examined on Monday on the trial’s opening day but his testimony was delayed as Judge Julia Santamaria dealt with procedural issues. He was again mobbed by dozens of reporters, photographers and camera crews as he arrived with his lawyer on Tuesday and before he took the stand Santamaria agreed to a prosecution petition that disgraced American cyclist Tyler Hamilton be called as a witness later in the trial.