Puerto

As you can read elsewhere on the internet, the trial of Dr Eufemiano Fuentes ended this week. More eagerly anticipated than the verdict was the Judge’s ruling on whether WADA and friends may inspect the blood bags found during the Operation Puerto raids to find out to which athletes they belonged so that they can be outed and punished. The Judge has ruled that the bags must be destroyed.

There is word of an appeal from WADA, but I doubt it can succeed without a change in strategy. Doctor-patient confidentiality is a big deal in any civilised country and no court is going to rule that you can break it without an adequate reason. Obviously this does not apply to the athletes who testified in the case because they volunteered to waive their right to confidentiality.

There is, happily, another way. Fuentes has already been found guilty of the crime of endangering the public health by infusing badly stored blood into people. There is therefore, without introducing any new law or facts, an excellent reason for a court to rule that the names of the others he “treated” should be disclosed: wherever they now are, they must be prevented from donating blood to protect the public health.

Of course WADA can’t ask for this because it isn’t their business. SNS, however, can. Other nation’s health services could also file on the same basis as his clientele came from all over the world. Of course any reasonable system of jurisprudence, such as Spain’s, is going to require the names are used for no purpose beyond protecting the public health before handing the list over.

I imagine that whatever the assurances and protections it would be impossible to keep the list secret from WADA & co once it had been made: someone somewhere would leak it to them. They would never be able to use it as evidence, but it would give them some pointers as to who is worth taking a longer look at. A few conversations of the “we know: confess and tell us everything you know and you’ll only get the minimum ban” nature might unlock a lot of other information.

This near-inevitability of a leak is of course the best argument against allowing health services to have access to the names of Fuentes’ clients; the court would have to decide whether, under prevailing Spanish law, the privacy of athletes outweighs the protection of the public. It would be a reasonable outcome if they ruled that they could only hand over the names of those for whom doping was a crime in their home country at the time.

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