(Adds details on police raids in sixth paragraph.)
Nov. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Former cycling team managers and doctors were ordered to stand trial, five years after police found 200 bags of blood in Madrid apartments in a doping probe dubbed “Operacion Puerto.”
Prosecutors are seeking a two-year prison sentence for all seven of the accused for a so-called crime against public health, Madrid’s Superior Court said today in a statement. Under Spanish law, first-time offenders don’t serve jail time if convicted of a crime carrying a sentence of two years or less.
The trial is unlikely to start for about 18 months because of a back-log of other cases, a court official said.
Police initially linked as many as 58 cyclists to a blood- doping ring in raids days before the 2006 Tour de France. Athletes have been known to re-infuse their own blood to increase the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells in their body for a stamina boost. It’s banned in professional sports.
The seven charged include Manolo Saiz, the former manager of the ONCE and Liberty Seguros teams, and Vicente Belda who ran the now-disbanded Kelme team. The others include sports physician Eufemiano Fuentes and haematologist Jose Luis Merino. Prosecutors are also seeking a two-year ban from practising for the doctors. No cyclists were charged.
In the 2006 raids, police also found blood-transfusion equipment along with details of stages in cycling’s biggest races and drugs only intended for hospital use, according to court documents. Jan Ullrich was among nine riders suspended from that year’s Tour de France on the basis of the police’s report. He denied wrongdoing.
The case was twice dropped by the same Madrid court in the two years following the police investigation. In 2008, the Montreal-based World Anti-Doping Agency filed an appeal to reopen the inquiry. “Operacion Puerto” means “Operation Mountain Pass” in Spanish.
--Editors: Christopher Elser, James Cone
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