Spain passes new anti-doping law

MADRID -- Spain passed a new anti-doping law on Thursday in an effort to clean up the country's tarnished image after the Operation Puerto case and boost Madrid's bid for the 2020 Olympics.

The new law approved by parliament includes the expansion of doping tests for athletes to night hours (11 p.m. to 6 a.m.) and costly fines for those who deal in doping substances. It also creates a new national anti-doping agency with greater autonomy and an additional focus on athletes' health.

Dealing in banned substances in Spain will lead to fines of up to $530,000. However, the law does not make doping a crime for athletes, just a sports violation subject to bans from competition.

The president of the Spanish Olympic Committee, Alejandro Blanco, said the law would help Spain increase its "credibility" in the effort against banned performance-enhancing substances and practices.

Madrid is competing with Istanbul and Tokyo for the 2020 Games. The IOC will select the host city on Sept. 7 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The new law was passed two days before the bid cities make presentations to national Olympic committees in Lausanne, Switzerland.

"We said that we would have a new anti-doping law before defending the candidacy before the members of the IOC in July and that's what has happened," said Blanco, who leads the Madrid bid. "It's a law that meets all the requirements of the World Anti-Doping Agency."

Spain's first anti-doping law was passed in 2006. The previous lack of doping legislation harmed Spain's image on doping and hampered police investigations like Operation Puerto. That case ended with the doctor at the center of the blood-doping ring, Eufemiano Fuentes, declared guilty and given a one-year suspended sentence for endangering the health of cyclists.

The judge's decision to destroy evidence that could have implicated athletes from other sports has been criticized by anti-doping authorities, who have appealed the ruling.

"This is the end of an opening phase and an indispensable step to bring us in line with other countries," said Ana Munoz, who will stay on as the director of the newly named Sports Health Protection Agency. "It's news that will strengthen the Madrid 2020 candidacy and guarantee that all clean athletes can compete under equal conditions."

Among measures on health, the new law requires sports facilities be equipped to handle emergencies related to heart and breathing problems.