Britain’s Andy Murray has labelled the court ruling by Madrid judge Julia Santamaria, “Beyond a joke” following the trial of Dr Eufemiano Fuentes. Fuentes was in the dock after a seven year sports doping investigation known as “Operation Puerto”.
The Spanish sports medicine doctor was handed a suspended one-year jail term and banned from practising sports medicine for four years. The offences relate blood doping athletes for performance enhancement. Doping in sports was not a crime in Spain at the time of the investigation, so Fuentes was arrested and charged for offences relating to public health.
He will not spend any time behind bars as Spanish law dictates that if the guilty party has no previous convictions then any sentence of less than two years will be commuted. The court also sentenced former cycling team official Ignacio Labarta to four months in jail, and acquitted three others, including Fuentes’s sister Yolanda.
A controversial element of the case revolved around an initial ruling that Fuentes did not need to name any of his clients outside of the sport of cycling, despite having confirmed that athletes from football, boxing, track and field and tennis were also members of his clientele. Judge Santamaria resisted pressure throughout the trial to provide the names of non-cycling athletes implicated in the scandal.
Despite repeated requests from WADA (the world anti-doping body) for access to the blood bags, Santamaria ordered that the bags and any other evidence including all computers used in the investigation be destroyed.
Murray used Twitter to express his astonishment at the ruling – “The Biggest cover up in sporting history?”, clearly bemused that all the evidence must be destroyed without further investigation. “Why would the court order blood bags to be destroyed?”
Andy Parkinson, chief executive of UK Anti-Doping also slammed the decision by the spanish judge: ‘We are disappointed. Dr Fuentes has admitted to having been involved in multiple prohibited doping activities, and linked with multiple unnamed athletes.
‘It therefore cannot be right that these names will remain unknown and no immediate action can be taken.’
It would seem for now that the guilty will escape and the innocent will be tarred with suspicion.