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by Shane Stokes
March 17, 2018
Hodeg lands first pro win in Handzame Classic; Gerrans out of San Remo, Vliegen and Bevin out of Catalunya; Spanish Cycling Federation drops Operacion Puerto cases; Former boss says Zabel was a kleptomaniac; Preview: Your guide to the 2018 Milan-San Remo; Video: 100% Brumotti waiting for Milan-San Remo; Video: Manta5 Hydrofoil Bike Prototype Demo Reel
Twelve years after the Operacion Puerto doping case became public, four of those involved have been cleared without punishment by the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC).
In a judgement which will fuel previous suggestions that Spanish authorities didn’t take the case seriously enough and which will also lead to frustration amongst those who want clean sport, the RFEC has dropped the case.
The federation originally opened disciplinary proceedings against Manolo Saiz (Liberty Seguros), Vicente Belda, Ignacio Labarta and Yolanda Fuentes (Comunidad Valenciana) in 2006. The doctor Eufemiano Fuentes was in charge of the doping ring. However, according to AS, although Judge Benito López proved that the defendants resorted to doping practices, the RFEC has decided not to sanction them. The reason? Because it says they do not have a licence at present.
Notwithstanding that, Saiz currently manages the under 23 Aldro Team.
The Spanish legal system tried the defendants separately on grounds of crimes against public health. This was because doping wasn’t illegal under Spain’s laws at the time. The argument that Fuentes and others committed such crimes against public health was eventually dismissed.
According to AS, both the UCI and WADA could appeal the decision and request the reopening of the files. However they have encountered repeated frustrations in dealing with the Spanish system, which has also resisted all calls to name the athletes involved from other sports such as soccer, athletics, tennis and basketball. Cyclists were the only sportspeople named and sanctioned, with riders such as Alejandro Valverde and Ivan Basso incurring bans.