Doctor at the centre of doping case leaves jail

MADRID: The doctor at the centre of Spain's biggest investigation into doping in sport was released on bail on Saturday after spending the night in a Madrid jail. 

Eufemiano Fuentes, who has collaborated with a number of professional cycling teams, has been accused of offences against public health after raids by the Spanish Civil Guard on Tuesday. 

Large quantities of anabolic steroids, laboratory equipment used for blood transfusions and more than 100 bags of frozen blood were found in raids on addresses in Madrid and Zaragoza. 

State prosecutors had asked for a bail payment of 300,000 euros (US$382,000) for Fuentes and fellow doctor Jose Luis Merino, the head of a clinical analysis laboratory, but investigating judge Pedro Antonio Dominguez Morales eventually set the figure at 120,000 euros. 

Merino managed to raise the funds late on Friday and was released from custody, but Fuentes spent the night in the Soto del Real jail near Madrid and was not released until around 1830 GMT on Saturday. 

Former mountain bike professional Alberto Leon and the assistant director of the Comunidad Valenciana cycling team Jose Ignacio Labarta, who had also been held for questioning, were released but will have to report to the court every two weeks and have been prohibited from leaving the country. 

The sporting director of the Liberty Seguros cycling team Manolo Saiz, who was also detained during Tuesday's raids, was released on Wednesday but has to remain available for questioning. 

Doping in sport is not punishable under existing Spanish law, but the supply of harmful substances can be deemed a crime against public health. 

Fuentes's lawyer Julian Perez Templado, who is also representing Labarta and Leon, said the doctor had not done anything illegal. 

“They have accused my client of an offence against public health, but they have put no one's life in danger,” he told reporters. 

Agustin Tornos, lawyer for Merino, also insisted his client had no case to answer. 

“My client is not aware of having done anything illegal,” he said. “The penal code does not include doping offences.” 

Judicial sources said that the case against the two doctors was based on the fact that so-called “blood doping” can endanger the health of competitors. 

The Civil Guard investigation, the biggest of its kind in the history of Spanish sport, is also reported to have compiled video evidence showing cyclists and other sportsmen attending addresses where doping is said to have been carried out. 

The Spanish government has admitted that the country has become a “doping paradise” and has said it is determined to crack down on the practice. 

It has passed a draft law that will make it an offence for sportsmen to use or be supplied with banned substances, but it is not expected to come into force until the end of the year. – Reuters  

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