March 20, 2007
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Operation Puerto: WADA Files Request to Be Accepted as Party to the Case

On March 19, WADA filed a formal request to the judge to be accepted as a party to the Operation Puerto case—the Spanish authorities’ investigation into doping that followed seizure of prohibited substances and other material by the Spanish police last May.

This criminal inquiry conducted in Spain is not focused on doping, but on endangering public health, and concerns members of the entourage of athletes. Last week, the Spanish state prosecutor appealed the decision of the judge in charge of the case to close the case without charging any individuals.

Since Operation Puerto broke last May, WADA has been in contact with the Spanish government to encourage strong measures against doping and coordination of information with sports authorities. More recently, in January, WADA President Richard W. Pound met with Spanish authorities in Spain.

If WADA’s request is accepted, the Agency should have access to the case file. Following appeal of an initial refusal by the judge, the International Cycling Union (UCI) was accepted two weeks ago as a party to the case. The UCI also confirmed last week that it will proceed with its own investigation and with the determination of possible anti-doping rule violations. However, it is not clear which evidence can be used as of now, since the judge ruled last year that the evidence garnered from the investigation could not be used by sports authorities as the basis for punishing athletes until the criminal investigation is completed. Under the World Anti-Doping Code, anti-doping organizations such as the UCI can sanction “non-analytical” violations, i.e., violations which do not involve a positive doping control test, such as use or possession of prohibited substance and methods, trafficking or tampering.

WADA hopes that the relevant evidence will become available soon and that the judge will allow the use of the entire file for disciplinary purposes. As the international body responsible for promoting, coordinating and monitoring the global fight against doping in sport, WADA will continue to work with the Spanish authorities and the Sports Movement in order to facilitate the use of evidence by sporting authorities so that cheaters can be sanctioned and removed from competition.