Sun, Oct 29, 2006 - Page 22 News List

Basso free to cycle after RFEC drops doping case

AGENCIES , MADRID

The riders implicated in the Spanish investigation into a cycling doping ring will be free to continue competing after the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) dropped disciplinary proceedings against them on Friday.

The federation said the decision was made in accordance with a decree by the judge overseeing the case which stated that the evidence garnered from the investigation could not be used as the basis for punishing any of the cyclists.

It said it had never revoked the cyclists' licenses but that the decision meant it had now agreed to withdraw the threat of disciplinary action.

The federation added, however, that a disciplinary investigation against team officials and employees implicated in the scandal would continue.

The decision explains why charges against Italian cyclist Ivan Basso were dropped by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) this month and why former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich said he had been told he was not being accused of any offence.

"It's the right outcome," Basso's lawyer, Massimo Martelli, said. "More than being happy, we feel it was deserved."

Both riders were prevented from taking part in this year's Tour de France by their respective teams because they had been implicated in the investigation.

The probe known as Operacion Puerto was launched after raids on addresses in Madrid and Zaragoza in May in which police found large quantities of anabolic steroids, laboratory equipment used for blood transfusions and more than 100 bags of frozen blood.

As a result of the raids, Spain's Civil Guard compiled a list of over 50 professional cyclists who were implicated in the investigation.

The former sporting director of the Liberty Seguros team Manolo Saiz, doctor Eufemiano Fuentes and the former assistant director of the Comunidad Valenciana team Jose Ignacio Labarta were among those questioned by police.

The federation said disciplinary action against Saiz, Comunidad Valenciana director Vicente Belda, Labarta and Fuentes's sister Yolanda, who are all bound by the federation's anti-doping code, would continue.

All four are accused under clause 83.2 of the code which is directed against the promotion, use and encouragement of doping products or unregulated methods.

Doping is not punishable under Spanish law, but Eufemiano Fuentes has been accused of offences against public health.

Earlier on Friday, Spanish daily El Mundo said the investigation was in danger of running aground because of legal objections raised by several of those implicated in the scandal.

Saiz has brought a case claiming irregularities in one of the documents, while cyclists from the former Liberty Seguros team have taken another out accusing the Spanish Federation of revealing protected data and damaging their reputations.

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