MADRID — The Spanish doctor at the heart of one of cycling’s biggest doping scandals was found guilty Tuesday of endangering public health and given a one-year suspended jail sentence in the Operation Puerto case.
Eufemiano Fuentes also was barred from medical practice in sports for four years and ordered to pay a fine of $6,000.
Judge Julia Santamaria read the verdicts seven years after police raided Fuentes’ Madrid clinics and seized more than 100 blood bags.
The judge also ruled that the blood bags be destroyed, ruling out any possible investigations by the World Anti-Doping Agency and Spain’s national anti-doping body.
The bags contained red blood cells and plasma that had been separated by Fuentes from his patients through the use of sophisticated centrifuges.
According to the judge, Fuentes’ practices were aimed purely at improving athletes’ performances, but they also posed a threat to their health. The judge said Fuentes timed blood extractions and transfusions with athletes’ race calendars, with the aim of improving their results and evading detection in doping controls.
Former pro rider Jesus Manzano was a plaintiff in the case and had sought compensation from Fuentes and others for allegedly endangering his life. He called the verdict far too lenient.
“For this kind of verdict you don’t even need to study to become a judge,” he said. “They’ve just made me waste another day of work.”
The court also sentenced former cycling team official Ignacio Labarta to four months in jail. It acquitted the other three people on trial: Yolanda Fuentes, Manuel Saiz and Vicente Belda.
Defendants who receive sentences of less than two years in Spain generally do not go to jail unless they have previous convictions. Fuentes has 10 days to appeal.
WADA and Ana Munoz, head of Spain’s new anti-doping agency, had requested access to the evidence contained in the blood bags for possible testing using the latest scientific techniques.
Although the bags will not be destroyed until appeals are heard, their eventual destruction puts an end to any further cases that could have been instigated by WADA or Munoz.
Operation Puerto implicated more than 50 cyclists but only a few have been sanctioned for cheating. The case raised suspicions that the bags could have contained evidence linking other top athletes who used Fuentes’ services.
Fuentes testified during the trial that he had clients from other sports, including soccer, tennis, boxing and track and field, but they were not identified.
No cyclists were on trial because doping was not an offense in 2006 when police raided Fuentes’ clinics and laboratories. Spain has since passed anti-doping legislation, with an even stricter anti-doping bill to be voted on by parliament this summer.
Madrid is bidding for the 2020 Olympics and Munoz has said she is determined to pursue a much harder line on sports cheats.