Operaciòn Puerto continues: legacy of a doping scandal
News from Spain overnight confirms that Operaciòn Puerto is still alive. Last month it was the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the doping investigation that was centred around a lab in Madrid.
Dr Eufemiano Fuentes was the pivotal figure in the whole fiasco. The Spaniard worked with numerous athletes, including a host of cyclists who have been identified as clients.
In the current issue of RIDE Cycling Review (#72) there is an interview with one of the most outspoken of all the Fuentes clients.
Jörg Jaksche has explained his involvement to the authorities and media since deciding to come clean about his doping habits throughout a long career as a pro cyclist.
As the 10th anniversary of Operaciòn Puerto approached, Jaksche went over some of the details that haven’t been published before.
The interview offers some insight into some of the doping methods used by Fuentes but also anecdotes about the nature of the doctor and his curious ways.
(To see the full interview with Jaksche about his involvement with Operaciòn Puerto, turn to p.126 of RIDE #72 – available in newsagents around Australia or as a digital edition via Zinio.)
After several months of association, Jaksche recalls, he went to visit Dr Fuentes for another ‘service’. And what followed explains a little about the character of the doctor.
“I had to go to extract my blood with him and he didn’t come for a while so I waited,” Jaksche told RIDE. “Eventually a person arrived and he had a beard and John Lennon glasses and a strange haircut. I was like, ‘I know this guy but I don’t know who it is…’ and then he came over to me and it was Fuentes. He was incognito.
“I was like, ‘What did you do with yourself?’
“He had just come from a meeting with Baxter, they produce blood bags. They had a new grade of bag which, instead of lasting four weeks, lasts eight weeks. It was unveiled at a meeting of haematologists in Madrid and he was there, sitting in the last row and he explained the story: ‘They gave some samples out and we could just take a look at the bags…’ it was like in school where everyone touches something and then passes it on.
“So, after telling the story, he just opened his bag and pulled them out and announced: ‘And here it is!’ He just stole it. His life was always like that.”
In part one of an ongoing series about the effects of Operaciòn Puerto, Jaksche explains some of the traits of Fuentes, the methods used, the reaction of some riders involved on the day of Fuentes’ arrest, and other details about a most sordid affair.
It may have begun over 10 years ago and there’s little scope for further sanction because of what happened as a result of Operaciòn Puerto but the latest ruling – that the blood bags of 211 clients of Fuentes will not be destroyed and will be made available for further investigation – but the case is effectively still open.
For a fascinating insight into what happened in the lab of Fuentes, be sure to read Jaksche’s explanation of his part in the charade.
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The original legal procedures offered some insights into what unfolded but many athletes continued their careers unaffected…
Perhaps now some of the answers about who else was involved will be forthcoming.
As Jaksche says in his evaluation of his time in Spanish courts, it was largely a slapstick trial, but it’s not over. Not quite yet.
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More from part one of ‘Legacy of a doping scandal’…
The trial lasted years and included numerous statements that were damning, certainly in relation to the reputation of pro cycling. Meanwhile all other sports denied involvement and of the list of 200 names, it is still only cyclists who are confirmed clients of Dr Eufemiano Fuentes. It leaves around 75 percent of the codenames unaccounted for. Herein lies some of the irony. For all the kerfuffle that was made about the bags of blood stored in the clinic, for all the legal action, for all the bravado of the Guardia Civil, it would have little effect on anyone other than those with links to cycling.
Jaksche didn’t enjoy the experience of having to testify but he stopped with his denials relatively quickly. And with time to reflect he realise the absurdity of the situation.
“The whole court case was like a slapstick,” he later says after having gone over it umpteen times in his mind.
“But anyway, I did the  Tour de Suisse, got third and then I didn’t want to go to the Tour. My name was a little bit ‘out there’ and I didn’t want to do the Tour de France because I was frightened I’d get arrested.
“I initially went to the Tour and then I said, ‘Guys, listen: I don’t want to ride. I just want to be at home.’ The team did the official presentation but I went home before that.”
There were strong implications for anyone who was even referenced as possibly having a link to the list – as long as, of course, they were cyclists. Jaksche knew it was going to affect the Tour [de France, in 2006] but he also began to realise that his whole career was soon to be finished. “We tried to do something in order to get the team to the start,” he explained, “but as it was suspected that we had been part of Operaciòn Puerto, we were not allowed to do it.
“In the end, our team didn’t do it. Manolo was in prison. It was all a big mess.
“Everyone who was on the Fuentes list was sent home,” Jaksche explained. “I’d already made my decision. What else could you do? My career was not really over but it was the beginning of the end that day.”
The saga is set to continue. But don’t expect a verdict any time soon.
– By Rob Arnold