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16th March 2018
Heavy snowfall in Madrid has prevented Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes from retrieving belongings seized during the Operación Puerto anti-doping investigation, reports El Pais. It is understood that the items set to be returned to Dr. Fuentes include an ACP 215 Haemonetics Automated Cell Processor machine used to freeze red blood cells; the instruction manual for it; and a bag with three mobile phones and two black leather cases inside.
In 2006, 211 blood bags from 35 people were among items seized from the offices of Dr. Fuentes, who in 2013 was given a one year suspended prison sentence for endangering public health. As part of that ruling, a Spanish court refused to hand the bags to anti-doping authorities and ordered that they should be destroyed.
In 2016, the Madrid Court of Appeal ruled that the blood bags should be turned over to anti-doping authorities after a successful appeal by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The international cycling union (UCI) and WADA took possession of the bags in July 2016, and they were stored in a WADA accredited Laboratory. In October 2018, a Spanish court ruled that the bags could be released to the Italian Olympic committee (CONI), however it is understood that CONI decided against taking possession of them.
The 2016 ruling also acquitted Dr. Fuentes of all charges. In 2017, the Madrid Court of Appeal clarified that the blood bags could only be used to identify athletes against whom sanctioning procedures have already been opened, since the ten year Statute of Limitations had expired (the bags were seized in 2006).
During WADA’s May 2018 Executive Committee meeting in Montreal, it was revealed that 27 DNA samples had been identified from the blood bags, which WADA had determined might come from 190 athletes. Günter Younger, WADA’s Director of Intelligence and Investigations, outlined that by using intelligence this had been whittled down to 167, which were divided into three groups, the first of which contained the names of athletes that the DNA is ‘most likely’ to originate from. Fourteen went into the ‘most likely’ group, 11 into the ‘likely’ group, and 142 into the ‘possible’ group.
Due to WADA’s ten year Statue of Limitations, only samples from seven of the 14 and three of the 11 were available for analysis. Seven people in total were identified from the DNA analysis, four of which were still active athletes. They were tested between November 2017 and April 2018 and reported negative results. Younger outlined that further analysis would be expensive and ultimately futile, since the Statute of Limitations had expired.
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