On 17 May, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Executive Committee urged WADA to continue with every possible effort within the structure of Operación Puerto case to seek justice for athletes who are clean. One year after the ruling permitting the use of blood bags confiscated in 2006 as a means of identifying the athletes involved, there has been no effort to do so. It seems also that no effort has been made to identify those involved.
According to what’s been written in the press, one of the reasons could be fear that the sportsmen and women affected could sue for defamation. But for that to happen, firstly those involved need to be identified and it looks like that has not happened yet. Secondly, WADA’s supposed concern over lawsuits don’t ring true, considering that dossiers on the Russian doping scandal were presented to the world’s media in a series of press conferences.
WADA's Russia precedent
During those press conferences, those who had participated in systematic doping programmes were not only identified by the reports and documents but each case was published on WADA’s own web site. Those reports were released in public without the need for a court ruling. In Russia’s case, there was no fear of libel cases being opened. As for Operación Puerto, WADA haven’t even created an investigation commission. Another hurdle was the time limit set for the case to be resolved - but it’s been that way since 2014. The Armstrong case was also restricted by time limits and yet they found a way for proceedings to go ahead and punishment to be served. Doping on the 1998 Tour of France was also deemed unprosecutable but the French Senate ordered that samples taken on that Tour should be given a second analysis and the results published. But, before all of that, before talking about prosecutions, first, the guilty need to be identified.
However, resolving the biggest doping case since the Russian doping scandal isn’t a problem for WADA – it’s a problem for Spain. Eleven years on, Spain has the same responsibility it had in 2006: to uncover the truth. It’s a question of credibility. It’s not possible to be seen as credible if the solution comes from elsewhere and without Spain’s participation. Nor is it possible to be credible by exclusively transferring the responsibility to third parties - or by simply asking to be informed of the results.
Spain should not only try to identify those involved, but must also seek the whole picture about the true scale of doping in Spain, which will allow those who have been unfairly accused of being implicated to have their DNA examined so that they can clear their names and put an end to the speculation.
To get to the truth means specific action. WADA keep repeating that they lack the budget to conduct investigations. But Japan and Denmark joined forces to finance the investigation into doping in Russia. That is the first task: to gain financing for WADA to open an investigation into the Operación Puerto case.
Operación Puerto wasn’t an isolated investigation. It was the continuation of other police operations that were presented to the CSD Higher Sports Council or the Spanish Anti-Doping Agency. These successive scandals have contributed relevant information to complement what was not known in the Operación Puerto case back in 2006. Only Spain has access to that information and only Spain can provide access to it as part of any new investigation. Just like Italy, Germany, Holland, Denmark and the United States can provide additional information and witnesses.
There is now sufficient information to identify witnesses who can give valuable evidence in order to identify the blood bags and to learn the truth. Spain should make it easy for those witnesses to give their evidence so that WADA can do their job.
It’s not about asking for the results of the identification. It’s about making sure that others don’t do the work that Spain needs to do. It’s about resolving a case which can damage our reputation - and Operación Puerto is the biggest scandal we have had to deal with.