Operation Puerto nets formal charges

MADRID -- A prosecutor has brought the first formal charges against Eufemiano Fuentes and four other people in Spain's long-running Operation Puerto doping scandal.

Judicial official Jose Manuel Garcia told The Associated Press on Friday it was up to a judge to decide whether to order a trial.

However, Garcia said he expected the doctor and the other suspects, including former cycling team owner Manolo Saiz, to stand trial in the case. The case began with police raids in May 2006 that netted steroids and blood equipment.

In December, Fuentes also was implicated in the Spanish Civil Guard's ongoing Operation Galgo investigation into doping in Spanish track and field.

Operation Puerto implicated more than 50 cyclists, including Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich and Alejandro Valverde, in the use of performance-enhancing substances or practices.

The Civil Guard has twice opened formal investigations into Fuentes' suspected doping activities only to have a judge close them down because at the time of the 2006 raids Spain did not have explicit anti-doping laws in place.

This time, prosecutors appear to be taking a different route by charging that Fuentes violated the law by endangering "the health of the athletes," according to the formal petition presented to the court on Thursday.

Spain now has anti-doping laws.

Fuentes recently joined the medical team of third-division Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.