Thu, Apr 04, 2013 - Page 20 News List

Doctor accused of doping defends his record as trial ends

AP, MADRID

The doctor at the center of a major doping trial defended his record as part of closing legal arguments on the last day of the Operation Puerto proceedings in a Spanish court on Tuesday.

Eufemiano Fuentes told Judge Julia Satamaria, who is trying the case, that he never in his career endangered the lives of those he treated.

“I just want to say that I don’t understand about law, but that in my 35-year career, I never endangered any of my clients’ health,” Fuentes said. “I protected their health.”

Fuentes is one of five defendants on trial charged with endangering public health by improperly administering blood doping designed to boost professional cyclists’ performances.

Fuentes’ four co-defendants are his sister Yolanda — also a doctor — and former racing team officials Manolo Saiz, Vicenta Belda and Ignacio Labarta.

The trial’s scope was limited to public health laws because doping was not illegal in 2006 when police began investigating the alleged blood-doping ring.

Spain has since passed anti-doping legislation and its parliament is due to vote on an even tougher law this summer.

During raids on Fuentes’ establishments, investigators seized about 200 refrigerated bags containing blood and blood plasma, each inscribed with coded references.

Spanish investigators and the World Anti-Doping Agency believe there could be evidence in the bags which could implicate more than the 50 cyclists believed to have been past customers of Fuentes’ services.

According to his testimony, Fuentes’ full client list included athletes from sports other than cycling. However, their names have not been revealed and it will be up to Santamaria to decide what can be done with the evidence in the bags now that the trial has ended.

The Spanish state prosecutor has said that although the bags themselves form part of a crime scene and should not be tampered with, there could be ways of making some of their content available for further analysis.

Spanish Anti-Doping Agency director general Ana Munoz said she is likely to file a request to have the bags examined with a view to taking legal action against the cheating athletes and those who aided them.

After the trial ended, the agency said it would decide what course of action to take once Santamaria gives her verdict.

During the trial’s 23 sittings over two months, Fuentes steadfastly maintained that the only services he provided were to help prevent athletes from endangering their health through overexertion.

However, the prosecution argued that some of his transfusion techniques endangered the health of his clients.

A date for the trial’s verdict was not given.

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