October 27/06 6:02 am - Operacion Puerto Saga Continues
Posted by Editor on 10/27/06
Operacion Puerto "Saga" Continues
We have three linked reports to the Spanish Operacion Puerto investigation, which has affected riders and teams throughout the season:
Operacion Puerto Doping Investigation Has Legal Complications
The Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport says that, according to a Reuters report, Spain's investigation against a doping ring in cycling has become bogged down in a complex series of legal disputes that could prevent action being taken against those implicated in the scandal.
After a series of raids, the Civil Guard compiled a list of over 50 professional cyclists who were implicated in the probe, several of whom were prevented from participating in this year's Tour de France by their respective teams (including favourites Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso).
The former sporting director of the Liberty Seguros team Manolo Saiz, doctor Eufemiano Fuentes and the former assistant director of the Comunidad Valenciana team Jose Ignacio Labarta were among those questioned by police. Doping itself is not punishable under Spanish law but Fuentes was subsequently accused of offences against public health.
Spanish daily El Mundo said the investigation was in danger of running aground because of legal objections raised by several of those implicated in the scandal.
Saiz has brought a case claiming irregularities in one of the documents, while cyclists from the former Liberty Seguros team have taken another out accusing the Spanish Cycling Federation of revealing protected data and damaging their reputations.
The paper said legal sources informed them that the case against Fuentes could be dropped if the blood and plasma from the transfusions had been conserved correctly.
They also said the evidence collected could only be used in legal cases and not as the basis for sporting punishments against any of the implicated cyclists.
El Mundo said this was the reason why charges against Italian cyclist Ivan Basso had been dropped by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) earlier this month.
Earlier this week, German Jan Ullrich published a Spanish court document on his Web site saying he was not being accused of any offence as a result of Operation Puerto.
The director of Spain's government-run Sports Council (CSD) Rafael Blanco said the new cases were deliberately designed to muddy the waters over the investigation.
"There are some people who are against doping and others who aren't," Blanco was quoted as saying in El Mundo. "But this will not divert us from our zero-tolerance policy towards doping."
Italian Federation Drops Investigation of Basso
The Italian cycling federation (FCI) today followed the lead of the Italian Olympic committee (CONI), and has shelved their investigation of former CSC rider Ivan Basso. Basso, a pre-race favourite to win the Tour, did not race this year and was subsequently released by his team after being implicated in the Operacion Puerto investigation.
The FCI released a statement: "The commission, in light of the shelving from the Anti-doping lawyer CONI concerning Ivan Basso, after having examined the legal documents, arranged for the shelving of the procedure."
Basso is currently looking for a new team, and is rumoured to be negotiating with Discovery.
Meanwhile, a Spanish court document states that there is no investigation of Jan Ullrich in the Operacion Puerto affair.
UCI Forced to Allow Active Bay ProTour Licence
The UCI had hoped to pull the ProTour licence from Manolo Saiz, whose company Active Bay held the licence for the now defunct Liberty Seguros team. Saiz has refused to relinquish the licence, meaning that the UCI has not been able to award it Alexandre Vinokourov's Astana team.
According to a UCI statement:
The UCI has acknowledged the decision of the Licences' Commission, which today refused the CUPT's request to withdraw the company Active Bay's licence.
The UCI regrets the circumstances which have obliged the commission to take this decision, which is undoubtedly correct in legal terms, but which is most likely due to the lack of information from the Spanish authorities and the extremely confusing state of affairs with Operation Puerto.
The UCI is extremely concerned by this situation and will take all the measures that it deems necessary to protect the interests of cycling as a whole, in particular as regards disciplinary procedures against the individuals concerned.
The UCI also wishes to stress, that for all teams, the upholding of the licence each year is subject to registration with the CUPT, based on the examination of its financial file on 20 November (meaning that the UCI maybe able to pull the licence if Saiz cannot provide suitable financial guarantees).