Operacion Puerto, arguably the most embarrassing doping case in professional cycling, died today. The causes were many in Spain: disinterest, nationalism, a bizarre legal system and after three years, exhaustion.
Peurto symbolizes all that’s wrong with the international fight against doping, the infighting of governing bodies, conflicting agendas and the lack of comparable laws between countries.
Something is fundamentally wrong when the head of the UCI and WADA have to beg Spanish judges to try cases. On the grading scale, Spain is rock bottom in terms of prosecuting doping violations, what the Bahamas used to be for tax evasion — a place you know you’re safe, where legal authorities turn a blind eye.
While Germany’s governing forces hounded Jan Ullrich, Stefan Schumacher and Bernard Kohl, Spain snoozed. In recent years, even Italy finally put the hammer down on doping and Ivan Basso endured a two year ban in the aftermath of Puerto. These days when Italian riders are caught, they’re banned and you don’t hear from them again for years. Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis got little sympathy from US anti-doping agencies.
Ahh, but Spain, a different story. Today Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, perhaps the highest profile rider implicated in Operacion Puerto, is dancing around the house, singing at the top of his lungs. The man has won over 20 major races including this year’s Vuelta with a dark doping cloud hanging over him.
Meanwhile there’s an empty hearing room in the Court for Arbitration in Sports. For two years cycling fans have been waiting for a ruling on Valverde but gotten nothing but postponements. The court is located in Switzerland but it sure feels like Spain.