Report: Puerto probe to reopen

Updated: January 17, 2009, 9:54 AM ET
Reuters

MADRID -- A Madrid court has ordered the reopening of the Operation Puerto investigation into an alleged doping ring in cycling, Spanish media reported on Saturday.

El Pais newspaper said Judge Arturo Beltran had ordered the probe to be relaunched after considering various appeals.

Court officials were not immediately available for comment.

The operation was originally launched in the spring of 2006 when raids uncovered anabolic steroids, blood transfusion equipment and more than 200 code-named blood bags, some of which were linked to leading riders.

Police listed more than 50 riders implicated in the affair, including former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich, Tour of Spain winner Roberto Heras and Giro d'Italia winner Ivan Basso.

The investigation was halted in March 2007 when Judge Antonio Serrano said that despite proof of doping there was insufficient evidence to prosecute.

A court ordered a reopening of the probe in February 2008 after fresh evidence emerged of possible offenses against public health laws by doctors implicated in the investigation.

But a report by Spain's toxicology institute said it was impossible to determine whether any physical damage had been inflicted on riders and the case was closed again in October.

Reacting to the reports at a news conference in Adelaide on Saturday, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong said the problem of doping was not confined to cycling. Armstrong, who retired after the 2005 Tour, is starting his comeback to professional racing in Australia.

"You guys [in the media] have a responsibility to keep in mind that Operation Puerto is not a cycling controversy, it is a sports controversy," Armstrong told reporters.

"If we're going to open a Puerto and talk about cyclists, then let's talk about soccer, let's talk about tennis, let's talk about everybody else involved."