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Major EPO trafficking ring raided in Spain

Blood sample
Joe Robinson
31 Jan 2020

Over 100 athletes found to have purchased EPO in 2019 alone, relevant authorities to be handed names

An EPO doping ring of professional athletes has been uncovered in Barcelona by Spanish authorities, according to reports in local press. As reported in Spanish newspaper El Paisthe Civil Guard uncovered 260 athletes from various sports who had been buying the performance-enhancing drug via the internet.

A three-year investigation found that distribution was led by a group of Serbian nationals who would ship EPO from a state-funded Andalucian clinic before distributing it to athletes. It is believed this clinic, based in Cadiz, has been funding the operation for the past 10 years.

Investigations started in 2017 after a speight of EPO positives that alerted Spanish authorities. This spurred the Civil Guard's Public Health and Doping section to begin investigations which subsequently led to the arrest of six people in Cataluyna and Andalusia. 

The investigation uncovered email address, purchase receipts and names of buyers. It also found that transactions would take place via encrypted messaging services. 

Investigations found that the operation sold EPO to 260 athletes in 2019 alone. They also expressed concern as raids uncovered pre-filled syringes of EPO that had been stored poorly, which is potentially damaging to a user.

Charges brought against those arrested include fraud, money laundering, belonging to a criminal organisation as well as crimes against public health.

The names of the athletes uncovered within the investigation are set to remain private unless the relevant doping authorities decide to hand out a ban.

As doping is not illegal in Spain, we cannot expect to see names of users released from authorities or in the courts, either.

Looking back to the last major doping bust in Spanish sporting history, Operation Puerto and the practices of Dr Eufemaino Fuentes, we will remember that these laws saw the names of the allegedly involved athletes remain secret.

It does seem, however, that this could be slightly different with the head of the Spanish doping authority Jose Luis Terreros issuing some direct words.

'The investigation was launched in mid-2017, after a series of athletes, who tested positive by EPO, collaborated with us informing us that they had gotten the product on a website that supplied from Cádiz, and gave us a series of names.

'I hope we will start receiving names from the court next week, and we will start working on it. We will deal with Spanish athletes, the rest will be sent to the World [Anti-Doping] Agency for distribution by their corresponding national anti-doping agencies.'

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