Swimming is among sports named in the World Anti-Doping Authority's (WADA) renewed efforts to crack open an international sports doping ring alleged to have been run by Eufemiano Fuentes, a doctor.
Fuentes was summonsed to a hearing in Madrid yesterday. He and five others are being tried under public health laws in Spain because doping was not illegal in the country when police seized 220 blood bags, a large quantity of performance-enhancing drugs, invoices and other documents from the Madrid office of Fuentes in 2006.
Seven years after Operation Puerto was launched, the world of cycling, Lance Armstrong and teammates in the midst, has been at the heart of inquiries. However, two years into the process, Pat McQuaid, current president of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) alleged in a statement to police and the Spanish Sports Minister that Fuentes had clients from "football, athletics, swimming and tennis".
WADA is now pressing Spanish authorities for names. It is widely believed that more than 100 athletes and people associated with them from several sports have had links to Fuentes.
David Howman, director-general of WADA, revealed his frustration in an interview in a British newspaper this week when he said: "Every possible block has been put in the way. The whole purpose of the exercise, and the reason we've been so resolute in pursuing this to court, has been to find out who those athletes are. We need to know what those sports are and who those athletes are so the information can be handed over to agencies who can do something about it. This has so far proved to be a very unfair caricature of one sport, where there were others involved."
Just where WADA and the truth are being frustrated in Spain was on show at the hearing in Madrid today when the computer data in Fuentes' computer was ruled inadmissible: it would be a breach of privacy, said the judge. If what is alleged is true, there would have been many a sig of relief on pitch, track and perhaps in the pool too somewhere. WADA intends to press for such relief to be temporary.
Meanwhile, the Independent Commission investigating the Lance Armstrong doping scandal has been scrapped by the International Cycling Union (UCI) in favour of a "truth and reconciliation process" backed by WADA.
The move followed talks between WADA president John Fahey and the UCI, whose president, McQuaid, who told reporters: "He [Fahey] confirmed WADA's willingness to help the UCI establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), as well as saying that WADA had no confidence in the existing Independent Commission process."
The three-member Independent Commission, made up of chairman Sir Philip Otton, Australian lawyer Malcolm Holmes and former paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and , was established last year to look into allegations that the UCI were involved in a cover-up during Armstrong's career.
"We have listened carefully to the views of WADA, USADA [United States Anti-Doping Agency] and cycling stakeholders and have decided that a truth and reconciliation process is the best way to examine the culture of doping in cycling in the past and to clear the air," said McQuaid, adding: "I hope the lessons learned from the truth and reconciliation process will help in particular to educate young riders and to help eradicate doping in its entirety from cycling."
Truth and reconciliation processes are aimed at reaching into the shadows and drawing out into the light those behind the scenes who may have had a hand in cheating. Yesterday, it emerged that one of Lance Armstrong’s closest associates, the former US Postal Service and Discovery Channel team manager Johan Bruyneel, will decline to give evidence before a drugs inquiry this morning.
Bruyneel was reported by Australian journalist Jacqueline Magnay to have notified authorities that he will attend a scheduled hearing before the Belgian Cycling Federation’s doping investigation. he had earlier given assurances that he would co-operate. Bruyneel, who is Belgian, lives in London, He has denied the accusations levelled against him in the 1,000-page Armstrong dossier compiled by USADA.
Bruyneel's website continues to show the images of his relationship with Armstrong, while his last blog on the subject are from August 24 last year: "Today, I’m disappointed for Lance and for cycling in general that things have reached a stage where Lance feels that he has had enough and is no longer willing to participate in USADA’s campaign against him. Lance has never withdrawn from a fair fight in his life so his decision today underlines what an unjust process this has been." The cyclist's confession on Oprah proved that investigations into and allegations again Armstrong were quite the opposite of unjust.
Jaak Fransen, the Belgian Cycling Federation's prosecutor, told Magnay that he may continue the inquiry even if Bruyneel refuses to co-operate.