Spanish doctor convicted over doping

Eufemiano Fuentes

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The BBC’s Tom Burridge says Mr Fuentes was found guilty of endangering the lives of athletes

A Spanish doctor accused of running one of the world’s largest sports doping rings has received a one-year suspended sentence for endangering public health.

Eufemiano Fuentes was convicted over his role in supplying blood transfusions to professional cyclists.

He was charged under public health laws because doping was not illegal in Spain at the time.

A former cycle team official was sentenced to four months in jail, while three other defendants were cleared.

Police found some 200 bags of frozen blood and plasma when they raided Fuentes’ offices in 2006.

The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) and Spain’s domestic authorities had wanted access to the blood, to test whether athletes from other sports were involved in the doping ring.

But Judge Julia Patricia Santamaria on Tuesday declined to grant them access and ordered that the bags be destroyed.

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“Late, disappointing and not even very conclusive: everything about the verdicts in the Operation Puerto case was in keeping with its seedy seven-year history. All that effort for two suspended prison sentences, a four-year ban from medicine and a bizarre fine – hardly what the doctor ordered to heal the effects of Europe’s most talked-about doping scandal. It is a good thing Fuentes was not in court to hear his fate, pictures of him smirking would not have done Spain’s tattered reputation on doping matters any good at all.”

The Operation Puerto doping trial focused on cycling. Dozens of cyclists were implicated, though few have been sanctioned.

As well as handing Fuentes the one year suspended sentence, the court in Madrid struck him off as a medical doctor for four years and fined 4,650 euros ($6,000: £3,940).

It sentenced Ignacio Labarta, a former official in the Kelme cycling team, to four months in prison.

Two other former cycling team officials, Manolo Saiz and Vicente Belda, were cleared, as was Fuentes’ sister and fellow doctor Yolanda.

During the trial, Fuentes said he had worked with athletes, footballers and boxers, as well as cyclists, though he did not say whether he had helped them dope.

The bags of blood found in Fuentes’ offices were labelled with codenames, which were believed to relate to well-known cyclists and possibly other athletes. But the judge’s ruling means authorities will not be able to establish this.

Fuentes maintained that the aim of the blood transfusions was to protect athletes’ health and improve their performance during training.

Spain has passed anti-doping legislation since 2006, and parliament is expected to vote on an anti-doping bill later this year that would bring Spanish law into line with Wada’s guidelines.

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