UCI PRESIDENT Pat McQuaid has sharply criticised a Spanish court’s decision to destroy bags of blood seized in a major doping case.
In an interview with sports daily Marca published today, the cycling chief said he disagreed with Judge Julia Patricia Santamaria’s ruling in one of the sporting world’s biggest doping scandals.
Last month, the judge sentenced Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes to a year in prison for endangering public health for his role in performing blood extractions and transfusions on high profile cyclists. But she refused to give anti-doping bodies access to the 211 blood bags seized in 2006 in police raids on Fuentes’ properties as part of the so-called “Operation Puerto” investigation.
Instead, the judge ordered that the bags of blood, which could identify other sportspeople implicated in the scandal, be destroyed once any appeals have been exhausted.
“I couldn’t disagree more, and that’s why we have appealed,” McQuaid told the paper. “The Spanish anti-doping authorities have to get to the bottom of exactly who were the owners of the bags, so that we can get rid of the cheats,” he added.
Asked what would happen if the blood bags were, indeed, destroyed, McQuaid said: “Then it will be a defeat for the fight against doping.”
The destruction of the blood is under appeal by the ICU, the World Anti-Doping Agency, the Italian National Olympic Committee and Spanish prosecutors.
McQuaid said he was convinced Fuentes’ clients included people from sports other than just cycling. During the trial, Fuentes said that he had worked with athletes from sports including football, tennis, athletics and boxing but did not name any names.
The ICU chief said he believed cycling was cleaning up its game.
“A culture of doping existed in the past, but I believe that now the sport is turning against this,” he said.
McQuaid, who is seeking a third term as leader of the UCI, defended his organisation’s record in fighting doping but said there was still a long way for the sport to go before it could recover from the damage done by the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.
Armstrong was an inspirational figure for millions after recovering from testicular cancer and then winning the world’s most celebrated cycling event, the Tour de France, seven times in a row.
But the US Anti-Doping Agency banned Armstrong and took away his titles last year after he chose not to fight the doping accusations. He admitted taking banned performance enhancing substances in an interview with US talk show host Oprah Winfrey in January.