Doping in cycling returns to the spotlight as Operation Puerto trial opens in Spain

Harold Heckle, The Associated Press
Associated Press

MADRID - The first day of Spain's long-awaited Operation Puerto trial ended without any new revelations about doping in cycling on Monday, as the presiding judge heard only legal arguments from lawyers instead of testimony from defendants and witnesses.

In the wake of Lance Armstrong's doping admissions, five defendants are due to be cross-examined in a Madrid courtroom. Although one of them was in court, Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, the judge Julia Santamaria only reviewed legal details with the case's lawyers before deciding to leave testimony until Tuesday.

The much-delayed court case follows the discovery by Spanish investigators of one of cycling's most sophisticated and widespread doping networks seven years ago.

The trial, in which 35 witnesses are expected to testify, is due to last until March 22. It has sparked great media interest and the courthouse was surrounded by journalists, photographers and TV cameras from early Monday morning.

Fuentes' sister and fellow doctor Yolanda, Manolo Saiz, a former ONCE and Liberty Seguros team sports director, as well as Vicente Belda and Ignacio Labarta, both associated with the former Kelme team, also face trial.

Jose Luis Merino, another medical doctor, also was also due to be tried, but Santamaria granted him a temporary stay last week after he presented medical reports stating that he is suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

Although no riders will sit in the dock, many will be called to testify as witnesses, including two-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador.

Cyclists will not be on trial because Santamaria can only rule on matters covered by Spanish law as it applied in May 2006, when police raids uncovered a mass of evidence in labs, offices and apartments in Madrid, Zaragoza and El Escorial.