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Apr 30, 2013

Fuentes handed suspended sentence

Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes has been given a suspended one-year jail sentence, fined €4,500 and had his sports medicine licence withdrawn for four years after being found guilty of public health offences.

Fuentes and his co-accused were not charged with doping, as that was not illegal in Spain during the time in question, but he and ex-cycling coach Ignacio Labarta were found to have carried out medical procedures in an unsafe environment. Labarta was given a four-month sentence under article 361 of the Spanish penal code. Neither man is expected to actually serve any time in prison.

Former cycling team directors Manolo Saiz [Liberty Seguros-Wurth] and Vicente Belda [Kelme] and Fuentes' sister Yolanda, also a doctor, were acquitted in the verdict announced by Judge Julia Patricia Santamaria in Madrid on Tuesday.

Santamaria ordered that evidence collected during the Operacion Puerto investigation be destroyed, not handed to WADA or the Spanish anti-doping agency [AEA] for further investigation.

Many in Spain had called for an "exemplary verdict" to show the country was serious about combatting the use of drugs in sport. But the sentence - and apparent unwillingness to uncover the names of more past clients of Fuentes - was met with widespread disappointment in the local media.

The three-month long court case heard detailed evidence of blood extractions and transfusions taking place in hotel rooms in Spain, and of blood being stored in regular fridges and transported in carrier bags more typically used to bring refreshments to the beach.

Cyclists, including Tyler Hamilton, Jesus Manzano and Jorge Jaschke, were called as witnesses, but the trial did not probe evidence of doping in other sports. WADA and AEA had both hoped to mount their own enquiries using evidence found by 'Puerto' investigators, however confiscated computers and 211 bags of blood from 35 unknown sportspeople are reportedly to be destroyed once the sentences have been confirmed. AEA head Ana Munoz is reportedly to seek to legally challenge the decision to deny access to these materials.

Fuentes, who was employed by Las Palmas when the club was promoted to the Spanish top flight in 2000/01, has hinted that he treated top La Liga players in the past, but claims death threats have forced him not to reveal further details.

Former Real Sociedad president Inaki Badiola told AS in February that the doctor worked for the Basque club in the past, and the code RSOC appeared in documents relating to blood transfusions during the trial. La Real, and its former president Jose Luis Astiazaran, have strongly denied Badiola's claims.

Real Madrid and Barcelona both took legal action in 2009 to force Le Monde to withdraw allegations Fuentes had worked for both clubs in the past. The French newspaper also said Valencia and Real Betis had been among his other clients. In February Spanish FA [RFEF] president Angel Maria Villar dismissed allegations of doping in La Liga as "anecdotes".

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