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Operation Puerto hearings begin

Dr. Fuentes' testimony postponed until Tuesday

Seven years after the Spanish Guardia Civil found 200 coded blood bags in raids on labs and offices, five defendants in the Operation Puerto affair will testify in a Madrid court this week. Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, who ran the blood doping clinic in the Spanish capital, has had his testimony postponed until tomorrow.

The operation came just before the 2006 Tour de France and led to the dramatic withdrawal of favourites Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich, Alberto Contador and Francisco Mancebo the day before the prologue in Strasbourg. Since then Basso and Michele Scarponi have been suspended by the Italian Olympic Committee for their association with Fuentes while Alejandro Valverde has been the only rider to serve a suspension based on Puerto evidence.

World Anti-Doping Agency director general David Howman has called on the Spanish authorities to identify athletes who received treatment from Fuentes, including those in soccer, tennis, rowing and track and field, and not just cycling. Howman told the Guardian newspaper, “We were told it wasn’t just one sport. This has so far proved to be an unfair caricature of one sport, where there were others involved.”

The five defendants have been charged with endangering the lives of athletes, as blood doping wasn’t illegal in 2006. Prosecutors seek two year sentences and two year suspensions for Fuentes; his sister; ex-director of Liberty Seguros – once known as the high-powered ONCE squad – Manolo Saiz, and the ex-director and ex-trainer of Comunidad Valenciana. An assistant to Fuentes has been dismissed from the case because of the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Among those called on to testify is Alberto Contador, who served a suspension last season for the use of Clenbuterol.

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