-this exerpt taken from today's news on cyclingnews.com-
Operación Puerto shelved?
But disciplinary proceedings against riders still possible
Spanish judge Antonio Serrano is reported to have decided to shelve the criminal proceedings against the persons accused in the so-called Operación Puerto case. Although his decision is apparently due to be official only on Monday, Spanish media published this on Friday.
The sport's biggest blood doping affair, in which Madrid doctors Eufemiano Fuentes and José Luis Merino, team directors Manolo Saiz and Ignacio Labarta, as well as former mountain biker Alberto Leon have been implicated and accused of making blood doping possible to 58 professional cyclists, may thus have no criminal consequences, as it may not come to a trial.
The main reason for this would be that the judge could not assemble enough proof to justify the accused of crimes against public health, the only penal sanction possible as the new Spanish anti-doping law - which foresees prison sentences for those encouraging the use of doping substances - came into effect only in February 2007, long after the happenings. This legal reform cannot be retroactive.
Also, according to AS, the judge took into consideration that none of the cyclists which he interrogated during the last months stated that they received this sort of medical treatment from Fuentes. All but one: Jesús Manzano did, but Serrano concluded that the "blood extraction and transfusion" he denounced could not have been the cause of his "hypothetical lesions."
Moreover, the judge concluded that the autologous blood transfusions, should they have taken place, "minimized the risk that administering another drug could have caused." As regards to the use of EPO, Serrano deemed that "the side-effects (of the drug) are not known", and the levels of EPO in the blood bags too low to put the athletes' health at risk.
Meanwhile, the prosecutors announced that they would appeal the decision, and French L'Equipe still expected a new investigation into the charges of trafficking of doping products for the accused.
On a sports-disciplinary level, the UCI may thus be able to use the investigation files soon against the riders implicated in the affair. UCI president Pat McQuaid said on Friday that he had reached an agreement with the Spanish court to hand over the files as soon as the criminal cases are over.
While certain circumstantial evidence such as telephone call recordings may not be used, the head of the world governing body of cycling declared that "if new elements of information are revealed, then we can open up the files once again. For the riders, it's not over yet."
--in other words, the legal system in spain doesn't have enough evidence to proceed (even though several riders have had career-ending allegations levied against them). yet, the uci plans to drain every bit of blood out of this one.
i still contend the doping witch hunt by over-zealous officials has done more to damage cycling than the doping itself.--