The trial in Madrid, will do little to boost the credentials of a sport still reeling from Lance Armstrong’s admission that he cheated his way to a record seven Tour de France wins.
In the separate Spanish case, a sophisticated doping network was blown wide open on May 23, 2006 when Spanish police raided several apartments and a laboratory in Madrid and seized around 200 bags of blood.
A number of top cyclists, including Spaniards Alejandro Valverde and Contador, and Italian Ivan Basso, were implicated.
On the same day, police arrested doctors, sporting directors and trainers suspected of taking part in the doping scheme.
From Monday, five people will have to answer charges of an “offence against public health”, including the suspected mastermind of the network, 57-year-old doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.
The case against the network’s alleged blood expert, doctor Jose Luis Merino Batres, has been provisionally closed on the grounds that he has Alzheimer’s. The five defendants are charged with endangering public health rather than incitement to doping, which was not a crime at the time of the arrests. A Spanish anti-doping law was passed only in November 2006.
The investigating judge, Antonio Serrano, closed the case twice, in 2007 and 2008, on the grounds that the doping-related allegations were not illegal at the time and that the small amounts found of blood booster EPO (erythropoietin) did not constitute a health risk.
The Madrid Provincial Courts obliged him to re-open the case.
Spain now is preparing a new anti-doping law aiming to harmonise its legislation with the World Anti-Doping Agency’s anti-doping code.
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