June 30, 2006
Where the investigation stands
Spanish sports minister Jaime Lissavetsky is sending the Spanish Civil Guard's report on its Operación Puerto investigation to the Spanish Cycling Federation and the UCI for action.
Because sports doping is not a crime in Spain, riders won't likely face charges, but there may be sanctions by national federations or the UCI. They may yet be called to testify against the doctors and lab employees under investigation:
"The sportsmen cannot be held criminally responsible," he said. "I do not know whether or not the judge will ask the cyclists that figure in the Civil Guard report to appear before him."
I've seen a couple people wondering why riders weren't caught by doping tests. There are a couple of possible reasons.
First, the most innocuous possible reason is that these riders might not have been using banned substances, but only banking their own blood for later re-injection. This is what was originally called “blood doping” or “blood boosting.” Until we can see what evidence is in the 500 pages, we don't know.
Even blood doping leaves some physical evidence, but it's only visible in multiple tests over time, as riders' hematocrit level fluctuates with reinjections and training. In Tyler Hamilton's case, for instance, at his Liege-Bastogne-Liege victory, his hematocrit was barely under the legal limit, at 49.7, and his “off score” was also pegged at 132.9, with a limit of 133. These numbers don't constitute evidence of doping where the UCI is concerned, but they can get a rider put on a watch list.
Second, riders have a pretty good idea when they'll be tested. There's not a lot of out-of-competition testing, and not that many riders will be tested randomly at any given race. And there are still substances for which there's no reliable test.
I have little doubt that there will still be plenty of dopers in the Tour this year. They were smart enough or lucky enough not to use the services of this particular lab in Madrid.
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I'm curious how far back the records go, and will they affect the outcome of other races. That is, if there's evidence saying Basso was doping during the Giro, would he be stripped of the title and the new winner be...well, not the second-place finisher, Jose Enrique Gutierrez, because he is also implicated in this scandal. Heckuva way for Simoni to get his third Giro win...
Posted by: Victor at Jun 30, 2006 1:00:18 PM
I remember when one of the top woman riders in the world went on a training ride with our club in the mid 1980's. Not only, did she beat everyone in the club; in the mountains ... she had more facial hair than most???
Nowadays, it's a cat and mouse game on getting caught, instead of I DON'T CARE!!!
Posted by: CD at Jun 30, 2006 3:50:15 PM