WADA criticises Spanish authorities over Operacion Puerto delay, agency bans use of xenon gas

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The World Anti Doping Agency has issued a rebuke over delays in the resolution of the Operacion Puerto case, saying that it is not impressed by the long delays by Spanish authorities to reach a conclusion in the matter.

The agency, the UCI and the Spanish anti doping agency all said in May 2013 that they planned to fight the decision taken by the Spanish judge Patricia Santamaria not to hand over blood bags to anti-doping bodies.

They had requested the bags in order to try to trace the various sportspeople who had used Fuentes services.

It has long been suspected, but not proven, that footballers and other high profile athletes used Fuentes’ services. However cycling is the only sport which has taken action over the case and suspended riders.

Spanish authorities have resisted handing over Puerto-related information for anti-doping purposes. They ruled last year that the blood bags would instead be destroyed, but the action taken by WADA and others has thus far prevented that from happening.

WADA has now made clear that it is frustrated by the heel-dragging evident in Spain since the 2006 doping case was discovered and, more specifically, since its appeal last year.

“WADA’s Foundation Board expressed its disappointment at the substantial delay in the case of Operation Puerto, following WADA’s decision to appeal to the Criminal Court in Madrid on 17 May 2013,” the agency said in a statement.

“The Foundation Board stated that the lack of progress in the case was sending the wrong message to clean athletes right across the world.

“The Foundation Board was of the view that the Spanish authorities should conclude the case at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Fuentes and others were involved in doping cyclists and other athletes, and were snared when Spanish police carried out raids in May 2006.

In addition to large quantities of banned substances, over 200 blood bags were seized . These related to a number of different sports, but cyclists were the only ones who were identified.

Jan Ullrich, Alejandro Valverde and Ivan Basso were amongst those implicated. Ullrich retired, while Valverde and Basso both faced bans from the sport.

On May 1st of last year Spanish anti-doping agency director general Ana Muñoz made clear that she would persist in that effort.

“We have 10 days to appeal that decision,” she said in a press conference. “We will use all channels available to pursue this and to identify the names of the athletes involved. Operation Puerto is not over.

“I am going to ask the judge for any evidence of whatever nature, including the bags, so that these acts which she herself considers to be infractions can be judged by the competent authorities.”

This stance was echoed by WADA. On April 30th its director general David Howman described the decision to order the destruction of the blood bags as being ‘particularly disappointing and unsatisfactory for WADA, and the whole anti-doping community.’

Over one year on, the agency is trying to exert pressure so that the Spaniards finally comply with what has been requested.
Meanwhile WADA has announced that it has decided to ban the use of Xenon gas, a blood booster which became a hot topic during the Sochi Winter Olympics.

It ruled at this month’s Executive Committee and Foundation Board meetings that there was no place for Xenon within sport. The Executive Committee has now agreed to the option to modify Section S.2.1 of the 2014 Prohibited List.

This states, “The following substances, and other substances with similar chemical structure or similar biological effect(s), are prohibited:

“Erythropoiesis-Stimulating Agents [e.g. erythropoietin (EPO), darbepoetin (dEPO), hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) stabilizers and activators (e.g. xenon, argon), methoxy polyethylene glycol-epoetin beta (CERA), peginesatide (Hematide)].”

However the ruling will not come into effect immediately. Instead, WADA must wait three months after UNESCO communicates the amendment to what it termed all States Parties.

Xenon acts by forcing the body to increase its natural EPO production and thus enables blood to carry more oxygen.

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