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They are two of the most notorious names in cycling but, at this point in time, there is a clear lack of clarification about the status of Johan Bruyneel and Eufemiano Fuentes.
They were absent from WADA’s recently-published list of support personnel who have been banned from working with athletes and others involved in sport.
CyclingTips has contacted three anti-doping organisations about the duo, who have each been linked to multiple cases of doping.
Despite their past history, however, none of those organisations has provided clarification as to whether or not they are considered suspended.
The status of several others on WADA’s Prohibited Association List is much more clear. This list is a collection of 114 names from the world of sport who are specifically banned from working with athletes.
Dr Michele Ferrari, Luis Garcia del Moral, Geert Leinders, Maurice Duquette, Carlo Santuccione, Mariano Piccoli, Bruno Leali and Guido Nigrelli all had past involvement in cycling and were implicated in doping practices. All bar Piccoli have been given lifetime bans.
Bruyneel was the general manager of the US Postal Service team and was accused of a range of doping practises by the US Anti Doping Agency. He requested an arbitration hearing, but was found guilty in April 2014 and handed a ten year ban.
He appealed this to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and was due to be heard on March 2. CAS has not published a result.
Fuentes was heavily involved in the Operacion Puerto case and has been linked to other doping matters. The charges against him date back to 2006, yet a slow Spanish judicial system is still rumbling on many years later.
While WADA states that its list does not include cases that are under appeal, there is a lack of clarity from other anti-doping agencies about whether or not athletes are currently forbidden from working with Bruyneel and Fuentes.
CyclingTips exchanged several emails with USADA in order to seek clarity. The sole response was brief: “Mr. Bruyneel has appealed the case to CAS.” A follow-up email requesting clarification if he remains suspended in the meantime has not been answered. [note – see update below]
CAS has itself not responded to a request for clarification about the hearing and when a result will be made public.
What about Fuentes?
Spanish anti-doping agency AEPSAD (La Agencia Española de Protección de la Salud en el Deporte) gave a little more information about Fuentes’s situation.
“The Puerto Case is still pending in front of the Audiencia Provincial of Madrid (Spain), since the first instance sentence was appealed by all the parties,” stated Alberto Yelmo Bravo of its Department of Intelligence and Investigation.
“Any athlete support personnel with a non-definitive judgement, either in a criminal process or in front of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), will not be published [on the WADA list] until there is a binding and final decision.”
Asked if this meant that athletes were currently able to work with Fuentes, an answer was not given.
The long delays in concluding the appeals of both will be a source of frustration to all who wish for a clean sport.
Fuentes’ involvement in the doping ring uncovered by Operacion Puerto became known over nine years ago. Bruyneel was charged with multiple doping offences three years ago.
However, despite the passage of time, a final ruling has still not been handed down in relation to either case, creating a grey area that benefits nobody.
Different requirements for athletes between Prohibited Association List and banned substances categorisation
In the course of his reply Yelmo Bravo provided some context for how the Prohibited Association process works.
“According to article 2.10 of the World Anti-Doping Code, in order for the provision on Prohibited Association to apply, it is necessary that the athlete has previously been advised in writing by an Anti-Doping Organization or by WADA, of the Athlete Support Person´s disqualifying status and the potential consequence of such association.
“Therefore, if the athlete has not been advised of a specific person he or she cannot associate with, then there would not be an Anti-Doping Rule Violation due to Prohibited Association.”
This latter point is somewhat perplexing. It seems to state that even if an athlete is working with an individual who is on WADA’s banned list, they are only compelled to end that association if and when they are officially warned about it.
This is in contrast with the requirement for athletes to proactively find out what is contained on another list, namely that of banned substances and methods.
In the latter case all athletes are required to be completely familiar with what is not allowed.