Operación Puerto doping case

Operación Puerto (Operation Mountain Pass)[1] is the code name of a Spanish Police operation against the doping network of Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, started in May 2006, which resulted in a scandal that involved several of the world's most famous cyclists at the time.

Media attention has focused on the small number of professional road cyclists named; however, sportspeople from other disciplines including football and tennis have also been connected with the scandal.[2] Fifteen had been acquitted by May 2007, while three had admitted doping or evidence of blood doping was found.[3][4]


Revelations by Jesús Manzano

In March 2004 in an interview with the Spanish newspaper Diario AS, Jesús Manzano exposed systematic doping in his former cycling team, Kelme. He detailed blood doping[5] as well as the performance-enhancing drugs he used while on the team.[6] The investigation and the allegations he made led to questioning of several members of the team in April 2004. These included Eufemiano Fuentes who was the Kelme team doctor, Walter Virú the doctor before Fuentes, and Alfredo Córdova who was working for Liberty Seguros–Würth but involved with Kelme in 2003.[7] An investigation began into the practices of Fuentes in early 2006 by the anti-drug trafficking arm of the Spanish Guardia Civil.[8]

Police action

On 23 May 2006, Spanish Guardia Civil arrested the directeur sportif of the Liberty Seguros–Würth team, Manolo Saiz, and four others including Fuentes, accused of doping practices with riders.[9] Spanish police raided residences. In one, belonging to Fuentes, they found a thousand doses of anabolic steroids, 100 packets of blood products, and machines to manipulate and transfuse them.[10] The Guardia Civil found a list naming other cyclists involved. Liberty Seguros withdrew their sponsorship, which left Würth as sole sponsor.[11]


As more names leaked to the press, T-Mobile Team asked riders to sign a statement that they had never worked with Fuentes,[12] while the Phonak team suspended Santiago Botero and José Enrique Gutiérrez, who had finished second in the 2006 Giro d'Italia.[13] Tour de France organisers ASO considered withdrawing invitations to Würth and Comunidad Valenciana.[14] On 1 June, the director of Valenciana, José Ignacio Labarta, resigned.[15]

Würth found a new sponsor, five Kazakh companies united under the name of the capital, Astana, and became Astana-Würth.[16] ASO withdrew Comunitat Valenciana's invitation, moving riders to send blood samples to be analysed to prove their innocence.[17] The Vuelta a España considered expelling the team.[18]

After El País published details of Operación Puerto, Spanish riders boycotted the Spanish National Road Race Championships, which was cancelled after 500 metres.[19] ASO wrote asking Astana-Würth not to take part in the Tour de France, which the team ignored. Jan Ullrich, linked to Fuentes by the newspaper, threatened to sue El País.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said Astana-Würth were to be accepted in the Tour. The Spanish authorities lifted the secret of summary two days before the start of the 2006 Tour, formally involving all 56 riders found in Fuentes' lists.

Because Ullrich and Óscar Sevilla were in the lists, T-Mobile suspended them.[20] The example was followed by Ivan Basso's Team CSC and Francisco Mancebo's AG2R Prévoyance. ASO demanded all riders involved be withdrawn by their teams, even though Astana-Würth had received the support of the CAS.

The day before the Tour, Astana-Würth yielded to pressure. Five of their riders had been excluded by ASO for involvement in the scandal, leaving only four of the six riders required. Francisco Mancebo, fourth the previous year and involved in the case, ended his career, according to his directeur sportif Vincent Lavenu. As a result, none of the riders who finished in the top 5 of the 2005 Tour de France started in the 2006 edition.

On 3 July, Würth also withdrew sponsorship of the Astana team. They had planned sponsorship only if it were not excluded from a race.

Six days later, T-Mobile fired Rudy Pevenage, directeur sportif, because he was also involved. On 21 July, the team suspended Ullrich and Sevilla, effectively sacking them. On the same day, Spanish cycling newspaper Meta2Mil listed codenames used by Fuentes which had not been deciphered by police.

Additional leaks

In November 2006, El Mundo claimed that an anti-doping laboratory in Barcelona which analyzed 99 bags of blood plasma seized in Operación Puerto found "high levels of erythropoietin (EPO)". This suggested athletes working with Fuentes had been boosting their performance in ways other than blood doping. El Mundo suggested those implicated had delegated their cheating to Fuentes, and would not have been able to control the level of EPO they were taking.

After studying the Barcelona lab's report, El Mundo described Fuentes's program as: riders would visit Fuentes a few weeks before a race and have blood removed. Fuentes would run the blood through a centrifuge, separating the blood plasma from the red blood cells. The cells would be re-injected shortly before competition, boosting resistance to fatigue. If haematocrit levels (volume of red blood cells) got dangerously high, they would re-inject plasma as well, enhanced with EPO, to dilute the red blood cells and avoid detection.

The Barcelona lab did not identify any athlete responsible for any of the 99 tested bags of blood.[21]

Legal repercussions

On 26 July 2006, five Astana riders were cleared by Spanish courts. The five - Joseba Beloki, Isidro Nozal, Sérgio Paulinho, Allan Davis and Alberto Contador - received a document clearing them of links to Operación Puerto, the Spanish newspaper El Diario Vasco reported.[22]

On 8 October, the Madrid court in charge of the case told the Spanish cycling federation, the Real Federación Española de Ciclismo (RFEC), that court documents could not be used in the federation's investigations.[23]

On 13 October, Ivan Basso was cleared by Italian authorities due to lack of evidence. Ullrich was cleared by the Spanish courts on 25 October. The judge ruled that Ullrich and Basso were put under investigation without proof of involvement.[24]

On 28 October, the RFEC closed disciplinary files against cyclists in the investigation. However, the RFEC will initiate disciplinary investigations on Manolo Sáiz.[25] UCI president Pat McQuaid was reported to feel let down by authorities in Spain. He hoped teams would require cyclists to submit DNA samples to clear their names.[26] The investigations into Spanish riders were suspended.[27] On 7 March 2007, the case was dropped through lack of evidence of crime.[28]

Admissions and evidence of doping

On 3 April 2007, the German news agency sid said nine bags of blood marked Jan, number 1 or Hijo Rudicio (Son of Rudy) matched Jan Ullrich's saliva DNA.[4] On 7 May, Basso admitted involvement with the scandal to the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI).[3] On 9 May, Michele Scarponi admitted he was Zapatero in Fuentes' files.[29] And on 30 June, Jörg Jaksche admitted he was Bella.[30]


In January 2013, the Operacion Puerto trial went underway, and Eufemiano Fuentes offered to reveal the names of all the athletes who were his clients. Julia Santamaria, the judge presiding the trial, told Fuentes that he was not under obligations to name any athlete other than the cyclists implicated. Fuentes stated that he supplied athletes in other sports with drugs and said: “I could identify all the samples [of blood]. If you give me a list I could tell you who corresponds to each code on the [blood] packs.”[31]

On the 30 April 2013 Fuentes was found guilty and given a one-year suspended prison sentence. The judge also ruled on a request to hand over blood bags to the Spanish anti-doping agency. The judge ordered the blood bags destroyed, but the anti-doping agency has appealed.[32] Additional appeals where filed by the Union Cycliste Internationale, the Italian National Olympic Committee and the World Anti-Doping Agency, as well as by the prosecution.[33] On 14 June 2016, the original verdict against Fuentes was overruled and he was cleared of all charges. However, 211 blood bags from his laboratory are set to be handed over to anti-doping authorities for investigation.[34]

List of athletes named

According to the Guardia Civil,[20][35][36] the following athletes have been named.



Comunidad Valenciana


AG2R Prévoyance
Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears
  • Constantino Zaballa
  • Alejandro Valverde – the source of blood marked VALV.(PITI) (Piti being believed to be the name of Valverde's dog at the time).[43] Valverde was suspended from racing in Italy from May 2009, and in May 2010 a two year suspension, backdated to 1 January 2010, was applied.
Team CSC
  • Ivan Basso – Basso's contract with CSC was terminated by mutual agreement on 18 October 2006.[44] On 27 October 2006 the case was dropped by the Federazione Ciclistica Italiana due to lack of evidence,[45] and he was then employed in December 2006 by Discovery Channel.[46] On 24 April 2007 Basso was suspended by Discovery Channel when the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) reopened his case. On 1 May 2007 Basso requested to be released from his Discovery Channel contract. This was granted.[47] Basso attended a hearing on 2 May,[48] and on 7 May 2007, admitted that he was Birillo.[3] Basso was suspended on 16 May 2007.[38]
  • Fränk Schleck - Schleck admitted transferring nearly 7000 euros to a bank account held by Dr. Fuentes, but denied any doping or personal contact with Fuentes.[49]
Phonak Hearing Systems
Saunier Duval-Prodir
T-Mobile Team
  • Óscar Sevilla - codename Sevillano.
  • Jan Ullrich - DNA tests confirmed that the 9 bags that were marked Jan, number 1 or Hijo Rudicio (Son of Rudy) all contained Jan Ullrich's blood.[4] An alleged doping plan was published in the newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung, where Ullrich's suspected doping during the first week of the 2005 Tour de France was described.[51] In 2013, Ullrich admitting to cooperate with Dr. Fuentes saying it was a mistake.[52]
Tinkoff Credit Systems
  • Tyler Hamilton - at the time of the initial investigation, Hamilton was suspended for a prior doping offence. Politiken, a Danish newspaper, published details of alleged doping diary of Hamilton during the 2003 season when he rode for Team CSC. It described intake of EPO, growth hormones, testosterone and insulin on 114 days during the 200-day season of 2003.[53] According to allegations originally published in El País, Hamilton is to have paid over €43,000 to Fuentes and that in 2003 Hamilton took erythropoietin, blood transfusions, growth hormone, a hormone taken by menopausal women and anabolic steroids.[54]
  • Jörg Jaksche - at the time of the initial investigation, Jaksche rode for Astana-Würth. On 30 June 2007, Jaksche admitted to Der Spiegel that he used Fuentes' services. He said that he was Bella, or number 20. Jaksche had been under suspension by Tinkoff Credit Systems since May.[30]

Already retired or suspended

Other athletes

On 5 July 2006, Fuentes was indignant that only cyclists had been named and said he also worked with tennis and football players.[2] On 27 July 2006, IAAF was assured by Spanish prosecutors that no track and field athletes were involved.[58] On 23 September 2006, former cyclist Jesús Manzano told reporters from France 3 that he had seen "well-known footballers" from La Liga visit the offices of Dr Fuentes.[59]

In May 2007 Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA, at a World Anti-Doping Agency meeting in Montreal, was reportedly interested in the contents "of the Puerto file".[60] Le Monde had reported in December 2006 that they had possession of documents of Fuentes detailing "seasonal preparation plans" for Spanish football clubs FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. These plans did not specifically name any players.[61] This news seem to be only rumors, since the French journal lost its trials in 2009 and 2011 against the FC Barcelona because it could not produce any proof of its allegations. In the ultimate judgement, on 14 November 2011, it was condemned to pay 15,000 euros of indemnity for "using false and unverified facts".[62]

No other athletes had been named.


  1. Inside the Blood Doping Investigation, Der Spiegel, 10 July 2006
  2. 1 2 Fuentes: "Me indigna la filtración selectiva", El País, 5 July 2006
  3. 1 2 3 David, Ariel (2007-05-08). "Basso admits role in doping scandal". AP News. Archived from the original on 2007-05-09. Retrieved 2007-05-08.
  4. 1 2 3 Puerto blood confirmed to be Ullrich's, CyclingNews, 4 April 2007
  5. Fotheringham, William (September 22, 2004). "It can kill, but blood doping is in vogue again". London: Guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
  6. "More revelations from Manzano". Cyclingnews.com. Retrieved 2008-03-28.
  7. "Manzano investigation widens". Cyclingnews.com. Retrieved 2008-03-28.
  8. "Everyone clean". Cyclingnews.com. Retrieved 2008-03-28.
  9. Jeff Jones, Saiz arrested on doping charges, CyclingNews, 23 May 2006
  10. Les Clarke, Spanish cycling speaks out over Saiz, CyclingNews, 24 May 2006
  11. Anthony Tan, Hernan Alvarez, Liberty Seguros terminate contract, CyclingNews, 25 May 2006
  12. Anthony Tan, Susan Westemeyer, All T-Mobile riders must deny involvement, CyclingNews, 31 May 2006
  13. Jeff Jones, Phonak sidelines Botero and Gutierrez, CyclingNews, 2 June 2006
  14. Jeff Jones, Astana-Würth out of Tour?, CyclingNews, 26 June 2006
  15. Anthony Tan Comunidad Valenciana DS resigns, CyclingNews, 1 June 2006
  16. Jeff Jones, Sáiz's team becomes Astana-Würth, CyclingNews, 3 June 2006
  17. Antonio J. Salmerón, Comunidad Valenciana's Tour invite withdrawn, CyclingNews, 13 June 2006
  18. Andrew Hood, Vuelta dis-invites Comunidad Valenciana, VeloNews, 27 July 2006
  19. Hedwig Kröner, Antonio J. Salmerón, Spanish media uncover Operación Puerto investigation details, Spanish championships not ridden after rider protest, CyclingNews, 26 June 2006
  20. 1 2 Jeff Jones, Ullrich, Sevilla and Pevenage suspended, The list gets longer, CyclingNews, 30 June 2006
  21. Associated Press, EPO found in bags of blood seized in doping investigation, International Herald Tribune, November 24, 2006
  22. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Andrew Hood, Astana 5' cleared by Spanish courts, VeloNews, 26 July 2006
  23. Laura Weislo, Susan Westemeyer, Puerto court orders Spanish federation not to act, CyclingNews, 8 October 2006
  24. Mark Kreidler, Ullrich may be free, but damage is done, ESPN.com, 27 October 2006
  25. Laura Weislo, Spanish federation drops Operación Puerto cases, CyclingNews, 28 October 2006
  26. Agence France Presse, McQuaid frustrated by Puerto investigation, VeloNews, 28 October 2006
  27. Provisoirement classée, L'Equipe, 26 October 2006
  28. Puerto inquiry dropped, Spanish papers report Velonews.com , March 7, 2007
  29. 1 2 Lindsay, Joe (2007-05-09). "Boulder Report : Half Measures". Bicycling.com. Rodale. Retrieved 2007-05-10.
  30. 1 2 Nesha Starcevic, German rider Joerg Jaksche admits blood doping from Spanish doctor, International Herald Tribune, June 30, 2007
  31. Jacquelin Magnay (30 January 2013). "Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes told he does not have reveal athletes he treated in doping inquiry". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
  32. Fiona Govan (30 April 2013). "Eufemiano Fuentes handed one-year prison sentence". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited. Retrieved 30 April 2013.
  33. "Operation Puerto: Wada to appeal against blood bags destruction". BBC. 17 May 2013. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  34. Fotheringham, Alasdair (14 June 2016). "Operacion Puerto blood bags to be handed over to anti-doping authorities". cyclingsnews.com. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  35. Dopage - La liste des coureurs cités, L'Equipe, 30 June 2006
  36. Von Basso bis Ullrich, Spiegel, June 30, 2006
  37. Davis case closed, Cycling Australia, 18 December 2006.
  38. 1 2 "Basso and Scarponi suspended". CyclingNews.com. 2007-05-16. Retrieved 2007-05-25.
  39. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Antonio J. Salmerón, Comunidad Valenciana riders get all clear, CyclingNews, 30 July 2006
  40. "Mancebo ends career". Cyclingnews.com. 2006-06-30. Retrieved 2007-01-25.
  41. Tan, Anthony (2006-12-05). "Mancebo breaks with AG2R". Cyclingnews.com. Retrieved 2007-01-25.
  42. "Mancebo starts season". Cyclingnews.com. 2007-01-23. Retrieved 2007-01-25.
  43. "No EPO in Basso's blood bags but different for Valverde". Cyclingnews.com. 2007-01-23. Retrieved 2007-01-25.
  44. Ivan Basso To Leave Team CSC, Team CSC, 18 October 2006
  45. Tim Maloney, Gregor Brown, Basso officially cleared in Operación Puerto, CyclingNews, 27 October 2006
  46. Gregor Brown, Ivan Basso back on the road - with Discovery Channel, CyclingNews, 3 December 2006
  47. Basso's request to leave Team Discovery Channel is granted, CyclingNews, 1 May 2007
  48. Basso's Giro participation in doubt, CyclingNews, 24 April 2007
  49. Frank Schleck admits Fuentes payment, BikeRadar, 3 October 2008
  50. Andrew Hood, Botero cleared, VeloNews, 2 October 2006
  51. "Ullrich's alleged doping plan". Cyclingnews.com. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
  52. "Jan Ullrich gesteht erstmals Eigenblutdoping" (in German). Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. 22 June 2013. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  53. "Hamilton's "doping diary" from 2003 published". Cyclingnews.com. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
  54. Fotheringham, William (28 June 2006). "Vinokourov team expelled from Tour de France". London: Guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 2008-04-03.
  55. "Italian paper reports Bartoli is 'Sansone'". Cyclingnews.com. 2007-05-25. Retrieved 2007-05-25.
  56. "Pantani, a Fuentes patient too". Cyclingnews.com. Retrieved 2008-04-01.
  57. "Report: Cipollini used 25 blood bags before 2003 Giro d'Italia". CyclingNews. Future Publishing Limited. 10 February 2013. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
  58. No hay atletas implicados en la 'Operación Puerto', Marca.com, 27 July 2006
  59. Antonio J. Salmerón, Manzano: "Well-known footballers" also clients of Fuentes also paul tiernan goes every day, CyclingNews, 24 September 2006
  60. "FIFA wants Puerto documents". Cyclingnews.com. 2007-05-15. Retrieved 2007-05-15.
  61. Kröner, Hedwig; Stokes, Shane (2006-12-08). "Spanish soccer clubs linked to Fuentes?". Cyclingnews.com. Retrieved 2007-05-15.
  62. "El Barça gana la batalla contra 'Le Monde' y sus acusaciones de dopaje". Marca. 2011-11-14. Retrieved 2011-11-20.
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