A Spanish judge on Wednesday refused to demand that the suspected mastermind of one of the sporting world's biggest blood doping rackets provide the names of the athletes implicated in the scandal.
The ruling in the so-called "Operation Puerto" case could avert a huge fall-out from the high-profile trial, with suspects across the drug-tarnished world of cycling and perhaps in other sports potentially at risk.
The Madrid court was told that Italy's Olympic Committee had asked judge Julia Patricia Santamaria to order doctor Eufemaniano Fuentes to identify the athletes whose blood had been stored in packs seized by police. "The request will not be made expressly," the judge said, without giving a reason.
The Canary Islands doctor, 57, was detained when police seized 200 bags of blood and plasma, and other evidence of performance-enhancing transfusions, revealing a huge doping network after a months-long investigation.
Fuentes, suspected of running the racket, told the court he knew whose blood was in the packs, each one marked with a numeric code. "I could identify all the samples. If you give me a list I could tell you who corresponds to each code on the packs," he said.
The court was told that traces of the banned blood-booster, erythropoeitin (EPO), was found in some blood packs seized from two of Fuentes' apartments in Madrid. Fuentes said in evidence that the doping network could stretch beyond cycling, which is still reeling from Armstrong’s doping revelations.
“I worked with individual sportspeople, privately. It could be a cyclist in a cycling team, a footballer in a football team, an athlete, a boxer,” he told the court.