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Doping

World sports authorities condemn decision to destroy Fuentes evidence

World sports bodies have condemned a Spanish court's decision to dispose of doping trial evidence. Destroying blood seized in the case would prevent further probes into what's been called the world's biggest doping ring.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Wednesday deplored the decision by Spanish judge Julia Patricia Santamaria to destroy over 100 bags of blood and plasma seized in the case against Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes (pictured) once appeals are heard.

"It is unfortunate that the evidence used in this proceeding is not now being made available to anti-doping organisations to further the fight against doping," the IOC said in a statement.

On Tuesday, Feuntes was given a one year suspended jail sentence for performing blood transfusions often combined with banned substances on top cyclists. He was found guilty of endangering public health, barred from medical practice in sports for four years and ordered to pay a fine.

Several prominent cyclists were identified in the scandal, dubbed "Operation Puerto," and Fuentes testified that he had clients from other sports including football, tennis, boxing and athletics, but they were not identified.

Citing Spanish privacy laws, Santamaria ordered that the evidence seized seven years ago when police raided Fuentes' Madrid clinics should be destroyed.

Anti-doping groups seek appeal

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) announced it was considering appealing Santamaria's decision, with director general David Howman saying access to the evidence was what originally motivated WADA's involvement in the case.

Howman said WADA had hoped to pursue sanctions "against cheats who used Dr. Fuentes' services" in cycling and other sports.

"The decision to order the destruction of the blood bags is particularly disappointing and unsatisfactory for … the whole anti-doping community," Howman said in a statement.

WADA is reviewing options with its Spanish legal advisors before the case's May 17 appeals deadline, Howman said, and would not make any further comment until that date.

The head of the Spain's anti-doping body, Ana Munoz, had earlier said her organization was going to appeal the decision to destroy the evidence.

"For the Spanish Anti-Doping Agency it is very important to know the whole truth and, with this sentence, we only know part of the truth," Munoz said. "We know the truth that says Dr. Fuentes is not a good doctor because he did some practices that are very bad for the health of athletes. But, on the other hand, it is necessary to know the names of the athletes."

Spain has been hoping the trial would be a chance to dispel the rumors that it is soft on doping ahead of its bid to secure hosting rights for the 2020 Olympics. The country is currently pushing new anti-doping legislation through parliament, which is expected to be voted on this summer. The government says the new laws will bring Spain in line with international norms.

A lawyer representing the International Cycling Union governing body had said the Fuentes case had exposed "the biggest doping network the world has ever seen".

dr/ipj (AP, AFP, Reuters)