More than 20,000 people have signed an online petition pressuring Spanish courts not to destroy blood bags linked to the Operación Puerto doping scandal.
The Spanish wire service EFE reported Wednesday that Spanish figures such as former world cycling champion Oscar Freire, along with track and field athletes Rosa Morató, Pablo Villalobos, and Alvaro Rodríguez, are among those who have joined the push.
The effort began in the days following the April 30 ruling by a Spanish court to destroy more than 200 bags of blood and plasma that’s been stored in a Barcelona lab since the Puerto raids back in 2006.
Petition-backers are hoping to gain 25,000 signatures before forwarding it to Spanish government officials.
As part of the ruling that found ringleader Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes and former Kelme trainer José Ignacio Labarta guilty of “endangering public health,” the judge also ordered that the blood bags be destroyed.
That ruling has created an uproar in Spain, where officials and media are clamoring to use the bags as a means to help identify more of Fuentes’ clients.
Many of his clients have already been identified, either by confessions, confirmation from Fuentes, or judicial pressure, but many remain unknown.
According to a report in El País, the identity of 20 of the more than 200 blood bags remains unknown. Most were already matched by police to many of Fuentes’ former clients.
Francisco Mancebo, for example, had nearly 20 bags on ice while others, including Ivan Basso (Cannondale) and Jan Ullrich, each had 10 or more. Others, such as Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), who later served a two-year ban after Italian officials matched samples to a bag in police custody, had only one. See this link to a story in Spanish, with a graphic.
Spain’s anti-doping agency is also pushing to appeal the judge’s ruling concerning the custody of the blood bags.
The Puerto scandal has rocked the Spanish sports scene, and has cast a doubt over the country’s effort to secure the 2020 Summer Olympics.
Fuentes and Labarta were the only two found guilty in the two-month trial, with Fuentes condemned to one year in jail and fines and Labarta sentenced to four months in jail. As first-time offenders in a non-violent crime, however, neither will spend time behind bars.
Three others, Yolanda Fuentes, also a doctor, former Liberty Seguros manager Manolo Saiz, and former Kelme director Vicente Belda were acquitted.
There still could be appeals in the case. Labarta has already told Spanish media he could appeal the ruling, while Fuentes’ lawyers said they were considering an appeal as well.