Some 211 bags of blood and plasma seized as part of the infamous Operation Puerto doping investigation back in 2006 are set to be released to authorities after a key ruling by the Provincial Court of Madrid on 6 June.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) and the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) should all have access to the frozen samples, currently stored in a Barcelona laboratory, for testing after an appeal against the controversial 2013 decision from Judge Julia Patricia Santamaria that they should be destroyed on privacy grounds was finally successful.
The man at the centre of the long-running scandal and whose clinic the bags were taken from, Dr Eufemiano Fuentes, was originally handed a one-year suspended prison sentence for endangering public health and banned from practising for four years but has now been acquitted alongside former Comunidad Valenciana assistant director Jose Ignacio Labarta, Yolanda Fuentes, Manolo Saiz and Vicente Belda.
More than 50 cyclists were originally implicated in the case, with two-time Giro d'Italia champion Ivan Basso handed a two-year suspension in 2007. Former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich was handed the same punishment after his retirement by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in 2012, while Spain's number-one ranked Alejandro Valverde was also banned.
However, the prospect of further identification of athletes from different sports is likely to prove complicated given that Wada's statute of limitations - which previously stood at eight years before being extended to 10 from January 2015 - has now passed.
When contacted for comment, the organisation pointed IBTimes UK to an official statement. It read: "The World Anti-Doping Agency is pleased with the decision taken by the Madrid Court of Appeal to provide access to stored Operation Puerto blood and plasma bags of athletes from cycling and other sports.
"WADA acknowledges the Madrid Court of Appeal for having reached the decision to provide anti-doping authorities with this crucial evidence," said WADA director general, David Howman. "We are dismayed that it took so long to receive the decision but we will now partner with the other parties that have been granted access [to the blood bags], to determine our legal options vis-à-vis analysing the blood and plasma bags.
"Operation Puerto is a Spanish Police investigation into a doping ring led by Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes. In 2006, 211 blood and plasma bags were seized from the offices of Dr. Fuentes who was then handed a one-year suspended sentence for endangering public health. The investigation also resulted in anti-doping rule violations for five cyclists; and, led to suspicion of numerous as yet unnamed athletes from other sports that had been treated by Dr. Fuentes.
"For years, WADA asked Spanish authorities to provide the Agency and partner anti-doping organisations with access to the blood and plasma bags so that any anti-doping rule violations could be pursued. In April 2013, the Criminal Court of Madrid ordered the destruction of the blood and plasma bags -- a decision that WADA appealed in May 2013. WADA will make no further comment at this time."