Asser International Sports Law Blog

Our International Sports Law Diary
The Asser International Sports Law Centre is part of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – January 2018 - By Tomáš Grell

Editor's note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked. 

The Headlines 

Anti-doping whereabouts requirements declared compatible with the athletes' right to privacy and family life

On 18 January 2018, the European Court of Human Rights rendered a judgment with important consequences for the world of sport in general and the anti-doping regime in particular. The Strasbourg-based court was called upon to decide whether the anti-doping whereabouts system – which requires that a limited number of top elite athletes provide their National Anti-Doping Organisation or International Federation with regular information about their location, including identifying for each day one specific 60-minute time slot where the athlete will be available for testing at a pre-determined location – is compatible with the athletes' right to private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and their freedom of movement pursuant to Article 2 Protocol No. 4 of the Convention. The case was brought by the French cyclist Jeannie Longo and five French athlete unions that had filed their application on behalf of 99 professional handball, football, rugby, and basketball players.

While acknowledging that the whereabouts requirements clash with the athletes' right to private and family life, the judges took the view that such a restriction is necessary in order to protect the health of athletes and ensure a level playing field in sports competitions. They held that ''the reduction or removal of the relevant obligations would lead to an increase in the dangers of doping for the health of sports professionals and of all those who practise sports, and would be at odds with the European and international consensus on the need for unannounced testing as part of doping control''. Accordingly, the judges found no violation of Article 8 of the Convention and, in a similar vein, ruled that Article 2 Protocol No. 4 of the Convention was not applicable to the case.


Football stakeholders preparing to crack down on agents' excessive fees

It has been a record-breaking January transfer window with Premier League clubs having spent an eye-watering £430 million on signing new acquisitions. These spiralling transfer fees enable football agents, nowadays also called intermediaries, to charge impressive sums for their services. However, this might soon no longer be the case as the main stakeholders in European football are preparing to take action. UEFA, FIFPro, the European Club Association and the European Professional Football Leagues acknowledge in their joint resolution that the 2015 FIFA Regulations on Working with Intermediaries failed to address serious concerns in relation to the activities of intermediaries/agents. They recognise in broad terms that a more effective regulatory framework is needed and call among other things for a reasonable and proportionate cap on fees for intermediaries/agents, enhanced transparency and accountability, or stronger provisions to protect minors.


The CAS award in Joseph Odartei Lamptey v. FIFA 

On 15 January 2018, FIFA published on its website an arbitral award delivered on 4 August 2017 by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in the dispute between the Ghanian football referee Joseph Odartei Lamptey and FIFA. The CAS sided with FIFA and dismissed the appeal filed by Mr Lamptey against an earlier decision of the FIFA Appeal Committee which (i) found him to have violated Article 69(1) of the FIFA Disciplinary Code as he unlawfully influenced the 2018 World Cup qualifying match between South Africa and Senegal that took place on 12 November 2016; (ii) as a consequence, banned him for life from taking part in any football-related activity; and (iii) ordered the match in question to be replayed. In reaching its conclusion, the CAS relied heavily on multiple reports of irregular betting activities that significantly deviated from usual market developments.  More...

Towards a Suitable Policy Framework for Cricket Betting in India - By Deeksha Malik

Editor's note: Deeksha Malik is a final-year student at National Law Institute University, India. Her main interest areas are corporate law, arbitration, and sports law. She can be reached at

In 2015, while interrogating cricketer Sreesanth and others accused in the IPL match-fixing case, Justice Neena Bansal, sitting as Additional Sessions Judge, made the following observations as regards betting on cricket matches.

“Cricket as a game of skill requires hand-eye-coordination for throwing, catching and hitting. It requires microscopic levels of precision and mental alertness for batsmen to find gaps or for bowlers to produce variety of styles of deliveries’ (medium pace, fast, inswing, outswing, offspin, legspin, googly). The sport requires strategic masterminds that can select the most efficient fielding positions for piling pressure on the batsmen. Based on above description, cricket cannot be described anything, but as a game of skill.”

The debate on the issue of betting in sports has since resurfaced and gained the attention of sportspersons, media, sports bodies, policymakers, and the general public. In April 2017, the Supreme Court bench comprising of Justices Dipak Misra and AM Khanwilkar agreed to hear a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking an order directing the government to come up with an appropriate framework for regulating betting in sports. The arguments put forth in the PIL present various dimensions. One of these pertains to economic considerations, a submission that regulated betting would be able to generate annual revenue of Rs. 12,000 crores by bringing the earnings therefrom within the tax net. As for policy considerations, it was submitted that a proper regulation in this area would enable the government to distinguish harmless betting from activities that impair the integrity of the game such as match-fixing. Further, betting on cricket matches largely depends on the skill of the concerned players, thereby distinguishing it from pure chance-based activities.

The issue of sports betting witnesses a divided opinion till this day. This is understandable, for both sides to the issue have equally pressing arguments. Aside from its regulation being a daunting task for authorities, sports betting is susceptible to corruption and other unscrupulous activities. At the same time, it is argued that it would be better for both the game and the economy if the same is legalised. More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – December 2017. By Tomáš Grell

Editor's note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked.


The Headlines 

The International Skating Union's eligibility rules declared incompatible with EU competition law

On 8 December 2017, the European Commission announced that it had rendered a decision in the case against the International Skating Union (ISU). The Commission upheld the complaint lodged in October 2015 by two Dutch professional speed skaters Mark Tuitert and Niels Kerstholt, represented in this case by Ben Van Rompuy and Antoine Duval (you can read their joint statement here), and ruled that the ISU's eligibility rules preventing athletes from participating in speed skating competitions not approved by the ISU under the threat of severe penalties are in violation of EU competition law. In particular, the Commission held that these rules restrict the commercial freedom of (i) athletes who may be deprived of additional source of income as they are not allowed to participate in speed skating competitions other than those authorised by the ISU; and (ii) independent organisers who are unable to attract top athletes. And while the Commission recognised that sporting rules with restrictive effects might be compatible with EU law if they pursue a legitimate objective such as the protection of athletes' health and safety or the protection of the integrity and proper conduct of sport, it found that the ISU's eligibility rules pursue only its own commercial interests to the detriment of athletes and independent organisers of speed skating competitions. The ISU eventually escaped financial sanctions, but it must modify or abolish its eligibility rules within 90 days; otherwise it would be liable for non-compliance payments of up to 5% of its average daily turnover. For more information on this topic, we invite you to read our recent blog written by Professor Stefano Bastianon.


The International Olympic Committee bans Russia from the upcoming Winter Olympic Games

The world has been waiting impatiently for the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) decision on the participation of Russian athletes in the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. This was finally communicated on 5 December 2017. Having deliberated on the findings of the Schmid Commission, the IOC Executive Board decided to suspend the Russian Olympic Committee with immediate effect, meaning that only those Russian athletes who demonstrate that they had not benefited from the state-sponsored doping programme will be able to participate in the Games. Such clean athletes will be allowed to compete under the Olympic Flag, bearing the name 'Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR)' on their uniforms. Further to this, the IOC Executive Board sanctioned several officials implicated in the manipulation of the anti-doping system in Russia, including Mr Vitaly Mutko, currently the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia and formerly the Minister of Sport. Mounting public pressure subsequently forced Mr Mutko to step down as head of the Local Organising Committee for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Meanwhile, 21 individual Russian athletes were sanctioned (see here, here, here, and here) in December (in addition to 22 athletes in November) by the IOC Oswald Commission that is tasked with investigating the alleged doping violations by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. The Oswald Commission also published two full decisions in the cases against Evgeny Belov and Aleksandr Tretiakov who were both banned from all future editions of the Games. It is now clear that the Court of Arbitration for Sport will have quite some work in the coming weeks as the banned athletes are turning to this Swiss-based arbitral tribunal to have their sanctions reviewed (see here and here).


Universal Declaration of Player Rights

14 December 2017 was a great day for athletes all over the globe. On this day, representatives of the world's leading player associations met in Washington D.C. to unveil the Universal Declaration of Player Rights, a landmark document developed under the aegis of the World Players Association that strives to protect athletes from ongoing and systemic human rights violations in global sport. The World Players Association's Executive Director Brendan Schwab emphasised that the current system of sports governance ''lacks legitimacy and fails to protect the very people who sit at the heart of sport'' and stated that ''athlete rights can no longer be ignored''. Among other rights, the Declaration recognises the right of athletes to equality of opportunity, fair and just working conditions, privacy and the protection of personal data, due process, or effective remedy.


Chris Froome failed a doping test during the last year's Vuelta a España

The world of cycling suffered yet another blow when it transpired that one of its superstars Chris Froome had failed a doping test during the last year's Vuelta a España, a race he had eventually emerged victorious from for the first time in his career. His urine sample collected on 7 September 2017 contained twice the amount of salbutamol, a medication used to treat asthma, than permissible under the World Anti-Doping Agency's 2017 Prohibited List. Kenyan-born Froome has now hired a team of medical and legal experts to put forward a convincing explanation for the abnormal levels of salbutamol in his urine and thus to avoid sanctions being imposed on him. More...

The ISU Commission's Decision and the Slippery Side of Eligibility Rules - By Stefano Bastianon (University of Bergamo)

Editor’s note: Stefano Bastianon is Associate Professor in European Law at the University of Bergamo and lawyer admitted to the Busto Arsizio bar. He is also member of the IVth Division of the High Court of Sport Justice (Collegio di Garanzia dello sport) at the National Olympic Committee.

1. From the very beginning, the outcome of the ISU case was highly predictable, at least for those who are familiar with the basics of antitrust law. Nevertheless, more than twenty years after the Bosman judgment, the sports sector has shown the same shortsightedness and inability to see the forest for the trees. Even this attitude was highly predictable, at least for those who know the basics of sports governance. The final result is a clear-cut decision capable of influencing the entire sports movement. More...

Human Rights as Selection Criteria in Bidding Regulations for Mega-Sporting Events – Part II: FIFA and Comparative Overview – By Tomáš Grell

The first part of this two-part blog examined the new bidding regulations adopted by the IOC and UEFA, and concluded that it is the latter who gives more weight to human rights in its host selection process. This second part completes the picture by looking at FIFA's bidding regulations for the 2026 World Cup. It goes on to discuss whether human rights now constitute a material factor in evaluating bids to host the mega-sporting events organised by these three sports governing bodies. More...

Human Rights as Selection Criteria in Bidding Regulations for Mega-Sporting Events – Part I: IOC and UEFA – By Tomáš Grell

Editor’s note: Tomáš Grell holds an LL.M. in Public International Law from Leiden University. He contributes to the work of the ASSER International Sports Law Centre as a research intern.

It has been more than seven years since the FIFA Executive Committee awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. And yet only in November 2017 did the Qatari government finally agree to dismantle the controversial kafala system, described by many as modern-day slavery. Meanwhile, hundreds of World Cup-related migrant workers have reportedly been exposed to a wide range of abusive practices such as false promises about the pay, passport confiscation, or appalling working and living conditions.[1] On top of that, some workers have paid the highest price – their life. To a certain extent, all this could have been avoided if human rights had been taken into account when evaluating the Qatari bid to host the tournament. In such a case, Qatar would not have won the bidding contest without providing a convincing explanation of how it intends to ensure that the country's poor human rights record will not affect individuals, including migrant workers, contributing to the delivery of the World Cup. An explicit commitment to abolish the kafala system could have formed an integral part of the bid.

Urged by Professor John Ruggie and his authoritative recommendations,[2] in October 2017 FIFA decided to include human rights within the criteria for evaluating bids to host the 2026 World Cup, following similar steps taken earlier this year by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and UEFA in the context of the Olympic Winter Games 2026 and the Euro 2024 respectively. This two-part blog critically examines the role human rights play in the new bidding regulations adopted by the IOC, UEFA, and FIFA. The first part sheds light on the IOC and UEFA. The second part then takes a closer look at FIFA and aims to use a comparative analysis to determine whether the new bidding regulations are robust enough to ensure that selected candidates abide by international human rights standards.More...

International and European Sports Law – Monthly Report – November 2017. By Tomáš Grell

Editor's note: This report compiles all relevant news, events and materials on International and European Sports Law based on the daily coverage provided on our twitter feed @Sportslaw_asser. You are invited to complete this survey via the comments section below, feel free to add links to important cases, documents and articles we might have overlooked.


The Headlines

FIFA and FIFPro sign landmark agreement

A six-year cooperation agreement concluded between FIFA and FIFPro on 6 November 2017 puts an end to protracted negotiations which began after the latter had filed in September 2015 a complaint with the European Commission, challenging the validity of the FIFA transfer system under EU competition law. This agreement, together with an accord reached between FIFA, FIFPro, the European Club Association, and the World Leagues Forum under the umbrella of the FIFA Football Stakeholders Committee, should help streamline dispute resolution between players and clubs, avoid abusive practices in the world of football, or contribute to the growth of professional women's football. In addition, the FIFA Football Stakeholders Committee is now expected to establish a task force to study and conduct a broader review of the transfer system. As part of the deal, FIFPro agreed to withdraw its EU competition law complaint.

FIFA strengthens its human rights commitment amid reports of journalists getting arrested in Russia

It is fair to say that human rights have been at the forefront of FIFA's agenda in 2017. Following the establishment of the Human Rights Advisory Board in March and the adoption of the Human Rights Policy in June this year, in November FIFA published the bidding regulations for the 2026 World Cup. Under these new regulations, member associations bidding to host the final tournament shall, inter alia, commit themselves to respecting all internationally recognised human rights in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights or present a human rights strategy on how they intend to honour this commitment. Importantly, the human rights strategy must include a comprehensive report that is to be complemented and informed by a study elaborated by an independent expert organisation. Moreover, on 9 November 2017, the Human Rights Advisory Board published its first report in which it outlined several recommendations for FIFA on how to further strengthen its efforts to ensure respect for human rights.

While all these attempts to enhance human rights protection are no doubt praiseworthy, they have not yet produced the desired effect as reports of gross human rights abuses linked to FIFA's activities continue to emerge. Most recently, Human Rights Watch documented how Russian police arrested a newspaper editor and a human rights defender whose work focused on exposing World Cup-related corruption and exploitation of migrant construction workers. On a more positive note, a bit of hope comes with the announcement by a diverse coalition, including FIFA, UEFA, and the International Olympic Committee, of its intention to launch a new independent Centre for Sport and Human Rights in 2018.

More than 20 Russian athletes sanctioned by the Oswald Commission for anti-doping rule violations at the Sochi Games   

November has been a busy month for the International Olympic Committee, especially for its Oswald Commission. Established in July 2016 after the first part of the McLaren Independent Investigation Report had been published, the Oswald Commission is tasked with investigating the alleged doping violations by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Its first sanctions were handed down last month. As of 30 November 2017, the Commission chaired by the IOC Member Denis Oswald sanctioned 22 athletes (see here, here, here, here, here, and here) who competed at the Sochi Olympics in the following sports: biathlon, bobsleigh, cross country skiing, skeleton, and speed skating. The Commission published its first full decision on 27 November 2017 in the case against the cross country skier Alexander Legkov, a gold and silver medallist from the Sochi Olympics, who was ultimately banned for life from attending another Olympics.More...

Statement on the European Commission's ISU Decision by Ben Van Rompuy and Antoine Duval

Editor's note: We (Ben Van Rompuy and Antoine Duval) are at the origin of today's decision by the European Commission finding that the International Skating Union's eligibility rules are contrary to EU competition law. In 2014, we were both struck by the news that ISU threatened lifetime ban against speed skaters wishing to participate in the then projected Icederby competitions and convinced that it was running against the most fundamental principles of EU competition law. We got in touch with Mark and Niels and lodged on their behalf a complaint with the European Commission. Three years after we are pleased to see that the European Commission, and Commissioner Vestager in particular, fully embraced our arguments and we believe this decision will shift the tectonic structure of sports governance in favour of athletes for years to come.

Here is our official statement:

Today is a great day for Mark Tuitert and Niels Kerstholt, but more importantly for all European athletes. The European Commission did not only consider the International Skating Union's eligibility rules contrary to European law, it sent out a strong message to all international sports federations that the interests of those who are at the centre of sports, the athletes, should not be disregarded. This case was always about giving those that dedicate their lives to excelling in a sport a chance to compete and to earn a decent living. The majority of athletes are no superstars and struggle to make ends meet and it is for them that this decision can be a game-changer.

However, we want to stress that this case was never about threatening the International Skating Union’s role in regulating its sport. And we very much welcome the exceptional decision taken by the European Commission to refrain from imposing a fine which could have threatened the financial stability of the International Skating Union. The International Skating Union, and other sports federations, are reminded however that they cannot abuse their legitimate regulatory power to protect their economic interests to the detriment of the athletes.

We urge the International Skating Union to enter into negotiations with representatives of the skaters to devise eligibility rules which are respectful of the interests of both the athletes and their sport.

Since the summer of 2014, it has been our honour to stand alongside Mark and Niels in a 'David versus Goliath' like challenge to what we always perceived as an extreme injustice. In this fight, we were also decisively supported by the team of EU Athletes and its Chance to Compete campaign.

Finally, we wish to extend a special thank you to Commissioner Vestager. This case is a small one for the European Commission, but Commissioner Vestager understood from the beginning that small cases do matter to European citizens and that European competition law is there to provide a level playing for all, and we are extremely grateful for her vision.

Dr. Ben Van Rompuy (Leiden University) and Dr. Antoine Duval (T.M.C. Asser Instituut)

A Good Governance Approach to Stadium Subsidies in North America - By Ryan Gauthier

Editor's Note: Ryan Gauthier is Assistant Professor at Thompson Rivers University in Canada. Ryan’s research addresses the governance of sports organisations, with a particular focus on international sports organisations. His PhD research examined the accountability of the International Olympic Committee for human rights violations caused by the organisation of the Olympic Games.

Publicly Financing a Stadium – Back in the Saddle(dome)

Calgary, Canada, held their municipal elections on October 16, 2017, re-electing Naheed Nenshi for a third term as mayor. What makes this local election an interesting issue for sports, and sports law, is the domination of the early days of the campaign by one issue – public funding for a new arena for the Calgary Flames. The Flames are Calgary’s National Hockey League (NHL) team, and they play in the Scotiabank Saddledome. More...

Illegally obtained evidence in match-fixing cases: The Turkish perspective - By Oytun Azkanar

Editor’s Note: Oytun Azkanar holds an LLB degree from Anadolu University in Turkey and an LLM degree from the University of Melbourne. He is currently studying Sports Management at the Anadolu University.



On 19 October 2017, the Turkish Professional Football Disciplinary Committee (Disciplinary Committee) rendered an extraordinary decision regarding the fixing of the game between Manisaspor and Şanlıurfaspor played on 14 May 2017. The case concerned an alleged match-fixing agreement between Elyasa Süme (former Gaziantepspor player), İsmail Haktan Odabaşı and Gökhan Sazdağı (Manisaspor players). The Disciplinary Committee acknowledged that the evidence relevant for proving the match-fixing allegations was obtained illegally and therefore inadmissible, and the remaining evidence was not sufficient to establish that the game was fixed. Before discussing the allegations, it is important to note that the decision is not only significant for Turkish football but is also crucial to the distinction between disciplinary and criminal proceedings in sports. More...

Asser International Sports Law Blog | Operación Puerto Strikes Back!

Asser International Sports Law Blog

Our International Sports Law Diary
The Asser International Sports Law Centre is part of the T.M.C. Asser Instituut

Operación Puerto Strikes Back!

Forget the European Championship currently held in France or the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio. Doping scandals are making the headlines more than ever in 2016. From tennis star Sharapova receiving a two-year ban for her use of the controversial ‘meldonium’, to the seemingly never-ending doping scandals in athletics. As if this was not enough, a new chapter was added on 14 June to one of the most infamous and obscure doping sagas in history: the Operación Puerto.

The special criminal appeal chamber,  the Audiencia Provincial, has held that the more than 200 blood bags of professional athletes that have been at the center of the investigations since 2006 can be delivered to the relevant sporting authorities, such as the Spanish Anti-Doping Agency (AEPSAD), WADA, the UCI and the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI). In other words, there is now a good chance that the identities of the involved athletes might eventually be revealed.


This case note will analyze the court’s ruling and summarize its most important findings. Given the amount of time passed since the scandal first came to light (2004), the blog will commence with a short background summary of the relevant facts. 


The saga can be traced back to the interview by the Spanish sports newspaper AS with the cyclist Jesus Manzano in 2004. During the interview, Manzano admitted that he, as well as other members of his team (Kelme), were involved in blood doping practices, and denounced his team doctor Eufemiano Fuentes as the mastermind behind the operations.[1] As a result of his declarations, Manzano became the victim of regular abuse by the “professional cycling world” and even received death threats. Manzano reported the death threats to the Guardia Civil (a Spanish law enforcement agency), who saw itself obliged to investigate the matter. The results of the Guardia Civil’s investigation proved that the information provided by Manzano regarding names, locations and practices were correct. However, the scope of the Guardia Civil’s investigations was limited due to the fact that, according to Spanish law in force at the time, doping was not considered a criminal offence.

On 23 May 2006, several people were arrested, including doctor Fuentes, who was accused of committing a “crime against public health” enshrined in Article 361 of the Spanish Criminal Code.[2] After his arrest, the Guardia Civil conducted domiciliary visits in the various domiciles owned by Fuentes, in which it found over 200 blood and plasma samples. The blood and plasma bags were labelled with coded names, in order not to reveal the true identity of Fuentes’ clients. Nonetheless, it was clear that Fuentes’ network was much more extensive than previously anticipated and that he had hundreds of clients, from a variety of sports and nationalities.

The relevant SGBs, such as WADA, petitioned for the blood samples to be analysed and all the identities revealed, with the aim of sanctioning the athletes involved. The Spanish public authorities, however, denied the SGBs requests[3], claiming that handing over the blood samples would breach the athletes’ right to privacy and reiterating that athletes involved in doping practices were not (at the time) committing any criminal offence according to Spanish law.

A long-awaited judgment was finally delivered[4] by the Madrid criminal court on 29 April 2013, a judgment which raised many eyebrows worldwide (see for example this critical analysis by the French newspaper Le Monde). Fuentes received a one-year prison sentence for committing a crime against public health and was suspended for four years from practicing sport medicine. More importantly, the court ordered the destruction of the blood samples, as well as other pieces of evidence, such as documents and recorded telephone conversations once the decision becomes final.[5] Given that the case was not about a doping offense but about a crime against public health, the court argued, the investigation of the blood samples would be in breach of the privacy rights of the athletes.

The judgment was appealed by several parties, including Fuentes and the SGBs (AEPSAD, WADA, UCI and CONI). Fuentes demanded to be acquitted, whereas the SGBs appealed the order to have the blood samples destroyed.  

Sentencia Nº 302/2016 of 14 June 2016

The Audiencia Provincial made its judgment public on 14 June 2016. The judgment consists of 23 different appeals by different parties. This case note, however, will only analyze section 18 (on the question whether blood is considered a medicine) and section 21 (regarding the blood and plasma samples). 

Section 18 – Is blood a medicine?

The answer to this question was highly relevant for Fuentes’ appeal against the prison sentence. Article 361 of the Spanish Criminal Code provides inter alia that a person who offers medicine in unauthorized locations[6] or does not fulfill the relevant hygiene criteria, shall be punished with an imprisonment from six months to three years.[7] Fuentes argued that blood extracted from an athlete, which is later injected back into the athlete, was legally not considered a medicine in 2006.

The court firstly established that the Criminal Code does not legally define “medicine”, meaning that the definition needed to be found in administrative laws,[8] such as the Medicine Law[9]. This law stipulates that blood derivatives could be considered medicine, but blood as a whole cannot.[10] The court also looked for a definition in EU law, more specifically EU Council Directive 98/381/CEE laying down special provisions for medicinal products derived from human blood or human plasma. Article 1, point 2, holds that whole blood, plasma or blood cells of human origin are outside the scope of the Directive. Having established that the blood and plasma samples found in Fuentes’ domiciles cannot be considered medicine, the court concluded that the doctor could subsequently not be punished for committing a crime against public health as stipulated in Article 361 of the Criminal Code. A punishment of any kind would be contrary to the “principle of legality”.[11] 

Section 21 – blood and plasma samples

The RFEC, WADA, UCI and CONI wanted to see the destruction order of the blood and plasma samples overturned and, instead, the samples delivered to them.[12]  Importantly, both the criminal court in first instance and the Audiencia Provincial recognized that a possible doping investigation by the SGBs after a handover of the blood samples would be an administrative procedure, rather than a criminal procedure such as in the case at hand.[13]

However, the first instance court had also indicated that the SGBs could not use the blood samples, because administrative sanctioning procedures do not allow this type of evidence to be used. To reach this conclusion, the court in first instance referred to an administrative law case involving disciplinary proceedings against a magistrate. In that case, recorded phone conversations were not deemed receivable evidence because of a breach of privacy, which would infringe Article 8 of the ECHR. The court transposed this reasoning to Operación Puerto and held that using the blood samples for an administrative proceeding was inadmissible.

The Audiencia Provincial did not follow this reasoning. Instead it referred to criminal case law, which established a difference between the recording of phone conversations on the one hand and domiciliary visits on the other. So-called “casual findings” during domiciliary visits of evidence for crimes that were not the ones the visits were authorized for, can still be used as evidence. In fact, the blood and plasma bags cannot be considered “casual findings”, since the public authorities were authorized to undertake the domiciliary visits to find evidence for an alleged crime against public health. Moreover, contrary to the recording of phone conversations which is only authorized in case of a penal procedure, domiciliary visits are measures that could also be authorized in administrative procedures.[14]  In other words, this type of evidence obtained in the framework of a criminal procedure can also be used in an administrative disciplinary procedure, such as doping cases.

As regards the transfer of the blood and plasma samples to an SGB, the court stated the following: In accordance with the provisions of the 2013 anti-doping laws, the samples can be handed over to the Spanish Anti-Doping Agency. The Agency would need to submit a formal request to a court, and the court would consider the request taking into account the principle of proportionality.[15]  The Audiencia Provincial considers that a transfer of the blood samples could be proportionate since it pursues the objective of fighting against doping. This is so because: doping use is contrary to the ethical values of sport, which are fair play and competition. Not allowing the transfer of the blood and plasma samples would give the impression that doping is not really a problem and might indicate that in sports the end justify the means.[16]  


On the day the judgment was released, AEPSAD expressed its satisfaction with the Audiencia Provincial’s decision and stated that it is studying the possible measures it can now take, either by itself or together with the other SGBs referred to in the judgment. WADA too acknowledged the court “for having reached the decision to provide anti-doping authorities with this crucial evidence”, but also stated that it is “dismayed that it took so long to receive the decision”. Finally, UCI regrets it had to wait this long for the decision, but will now partner with WADA, the RFEC, AEPSAD and CONI, to determine the legal options available with regards to analyzing the blood and plasma bags; and, where applicable, pursuing anti-doping rule violations.

In its press release, UCI points to the crucial question that will need an (un)satisfying answer: Can the SGBs still pursue anti-doping violations, or is too late? Article 17 of the 2015 WADA Code enshrines that the statute of limitations is 10 years. Coincidentally, it has been 10 years and two months since the arrests of Fuentes was made and Operación Puerto started taking shape. It is therefore unlikely that doping sanctions will be handed out on the basis of blood samples collected during the period 2002-2006. But simply discovering the identity of the doped athletes could have far-reaching consequences on its own. For example, when Bjarne Riis admitted in 2007 that he used EPO during his victorious 1996 Tour de France, the UCI was not able to sanction him anymore. However, the Tour de France organizing organization (ASO) has removed him as a past winner. Similar consequences are thinkable with the discoveries of the identities in the Operación Puerto case. Furthermore, Operación Puerto, widely recognized as the darkest chapter in the history of Spanish professional sport, can only truly be closed when the identities of the athletes are revealed. Publicly naming and shaming the athletes is an important mean to create a fairer competition and to prevent other athletes from doping themselves.  

[1] The actual interview with AS is not available anymore. A summary of the interview can be read at

[2] Sentencia de la Audiencia Provincial de Madrid Nº 302/2016 de 10 de junio 2016, page 7. A few months later, in 2006, Article 361bis was added to the Spanish Penal Code, a provision that made doping a criminal offense.

[3] Cyclists, such as Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso, Michele Scarponi and Óscar Sevilla were known to be among Fuentes’ clients, for the most part thanks to journalist investigations. The German cyclist Jörg Jaksche admitted voluntarily, and Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde received a suspension by the Italian Olympic Committee CONI in 2010.

[4] As can be seen from the 176-page judgment, the names of the suspects have been changed. For example, primary suspect Eufemanio Fuentes is called “Juan Máximo”.

[5] Sentencia del Juzgado Penal de Madrid Nº 144/203 de 29 de abril 2013, pages 175-176.

[6] A hospital, for example, would be considered an authorized location. A cycling team bus, or a hotel room, could be considered unauthorized locations for the offering of certain types of medicine.

[7] Artículo 361 Código Penal: “El que fabrique, importe, exporte, suministre, intermedie, comercialice, ofrezca o ponga en el mercado, o almacene con estas finalidades, medicamentos, incluidos los de uso humano y veterinario, así como los medicamentos en investigación, que carezcan de la necesaria autorización exigida por la ley, o productos sanitarios que no dispongan de los documentos de conformidad exigidos por las disposiciones de carácter general, o que estuvieran deteriorados, caducados o incumplieran las exigencias técnicas relativas a su composición, estabilidad y eficacia, y con ello se genere un riesgo para la vida o la salud de las personas, será castigado con una pena de prisión de seis meses a tres años, multa de seis a doce meses e inhabilitación especial para profesión u oficio de seis meses a tres años”.

[8] Sentencia de la Audiencia Provincial de Madrid Nº 302/2016 de 10 de junio 2016, page 61.

[9] Ley 25/1990, de 20 de diciembre, del Medicamento.

[10] Sentencia de la Audiencia Provincial de Madrid Nº 302/2016 de 10 de junio 2016, pages 59-61.

[11] Ibid., pages 69-73.

[12] Ibid., pages 76-77.

[13] Ibid., pages 78-79.

[14] Ibid., pages 80-81.

[15] Artículo 33(5) de la Ley Orgánica 3/2013, de 20 de junio, de protección de la salud del deportista y lucha contra el dopaje en la actividad deportiva: “La Agencia Española de Protección de la Salud en el Deporte podrá solicitar que le sean remitidas aquellas diligencias de instrucción practicadas que sean necesarias para la continuación de los procedimientos sancionadores. Dicha petición será resuelta por el Juez de instrucción, previa audiencia de los interesados, en el plazo de 20 días. En dicha audiencia los interesados podrán solicitar que sean también remitidos los documentos que les puedan beneficiar. La resolución del Juez será plenamente respetuosa con el principio de proporcionalidad, entregando a la Administración, mediante resolución motivada, únicamente las diligencias que la aplicación de tal principio autorice”.

[16] Sentencia de la Audiencia Provincial de Madrid Nº 302/2016 de 10 de junio 2016, page 83.

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