Cycling: Spanish doping trial reaches climax

MADRID (AFP) - The Operation Puerto doping trial involving Eufemiano Fuentes and four co-accused is set to conclude on Tuesday, with the judge ruling on whether the five were guilty of endangering public health.

Fuentes is on trial with his sister and fellow doctor Yolanda, as well as Manolo Saiz, Vicente Belda and Ignacio Labarta, who held various positions in the Liberty Seguros and Kelme cycling teams.

The latter three are accused of facilitating Fuentes' involvement with riders in their teams, while it is claimed that the siblings performed blood transfusions and stored and transported blood bags in a manner that represented a health risk to those undergoing the treatment.

However, it is not only Fuentes and his accomplices who have been scrutinised over the course of the 10-week long trial. The wider image of how Spanish sport deals with doping has also come under the spotlight.

From the first day of the trial, Judge Julia Patricia Santamaria did not require Fuentes to provide a comprehensive list of the sportsmen and women he worked with, something which frustrated the many foreign journalists waiting to see which stellar names from other sports would be implicated.

However, the problem the judge has had throughout is balancing the contrasting elements between the trial many wanted to see and that which was actually brought before her.

Fuentes and his co-accused are not on trial for any type of doping offence as when they were arrested in 2006, doping was not a crime in Spain.

In the light of the trial and Madrid's bid for the 2020 Olympics, a new law has been drafted by the Spanish government which will bring Spanish law in line with the World Anti-Doping Agency's code on doping.

The weight of evidence in the trial also does not bode well for all five, who face up to two years in prison should they be found guilty.