MADRID: In a major victory for sport’s anti-doping campaigners, a Sopanish appel court has ruled that blood bags seized as evidence in the Operacion Puerto case should be handed over to authorities for investigation writes KEIR RADNEDGE.

The long-awaited verdict comes 10 years after a series of police raids laid bare the doping network involving more than 50 of the world’s leading cyclists and who had been ‘treated’ at the Madrid clinic of Dr Eufemiano Fuentes.

They must now be given to the World Anti-Doping Agency, the international cycling union and the Italian Olympic Committee.

Three years ago Judge Julia Patricia Santamaria ordered the destruction of the bags after the conclusion of a court case in which Fuentes was convicted on comparatively minor medical administration charges.

Fuentes has given a suspended one-year prison sentence for endangering public health but even that was overturned on appeal.

A number of sporting and anti-doping authorities appealed against the order to destroy the evidence and have finally been vindicated.

The latest ruling – more than three years on – means they will now have access to the bags, which it is believed could contain further evidence of doping and implicate top-level names from other sports.

The appeal judges said they were overturning the earlier decision to destroy the blood bags to help the “fight against doping, which undermines the essential ethical value of sport”.

Among those eventually suspended were former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich, Spanish Vuelta champion Alejandro Valverde and Ivan Basso, who later confirmed that his blood was among the frozen samples found.

Fuentes always refused to reveal the secrets of the codes under which the blood bags were labelled. Since April 2013 they have been stored in an anti-doping laboratory in Barcelona.

WADA said it “welcomes” the decision though director-general David Howman said he was “dismayed” that it had taken a full three years to reach this stage.