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Doctor's client list could leave a stain on the sporting world

Like a fame-hungry actor in his twilight years, Dr Eufemiano Fuentes seems to have enjoyed his last few months in the spotlight.

He is a man used to commanding attention and large medical fees. But today Judge Santamaria will decide whether she believes Spain’s notorious doping doctor is guilty of endangering the health of his athletes.

More importantly, she will also rule on whether his infamous client list can be handed over to anti-doping officials. If she decides that it can, Fuentes becomes Samson with a haircut – that list he holds, and the secrets he keeps, are what make him so sought after. The centre of attention.

Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes is surrounded by media as he enters a courthouse in Madrid Credit: REUTERS/Sergio Perez

But his reputation is a sideshow to the real scandal here, the scandal that could expose many household names ranging from track and field to boxing to football. Yes, football.

One of Dr Fuentes’ former clients has told ITV News that on several occasions he saw two very well-known Brazilian players at his Madrid clinic. We know their names but we can’t reveal them for legal reasons. Of course they could have been visiting for very innocent reasons. But then again, they might not have been.

When his clinic was raided in 2006 as part of Operacion Puerto, doping was not illegal. This is why Fuentes is only facing public health charges.

Police seized anabolic steroids, transfusion equipment and 200 or so refrigerated blood bags. The bags carried codes but no real names. They also found a year planner in which, intriguingly, the dates of many major sporting events were highlighted including international football tournaments.

Police image of blood bags recovered from Dr Fuentes' clinic Credit: Guardia Civil

Thanks to the current court case, we know whose blood 50–60 of these bags contain - it was drawn from the bodies of some of the world’s best cyclists, like Tyler Hamilton. It was sitting, waiting to be returned via transfusion during competition.

But what of the others? Whose blood do they contain? It may be that we will only find out if Judge Santamaria decides it is only right that the world should indeed know and lets the investigators get to work on her evidence.

Watch footage from the raid on Dr Fuentes' clinic here.

Chief among those, waiting patiently like a puppy for some scraps, is Ana Munoz - Spain’s anti-doping chief. A lawyer by trade, she is promising a thorough and transparent analysis of all the facts, should she get the chance.

In a slightly sinister aside, she says there are "bad people" who really would rather she didn’t pick at a carcass from the past. She wouldn’t elaborate on who she means, but she told me last month that whatever obstacles or threats confront her she will not be deterred.

Sporting events marked on a calendar in Dr Fuentes' clinic Credit: Guardia Civil

Politically, she won’t have an easy ride. Madrid is bidding to host the Olympic Games in 2020. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was in Spain inspecting its venues as the Fuentes trial was in full swing. If she unearths a recent past where Spain’s elite athletes have been systematically doping, will that stain the country’s reputation or harm its Olympic ambitions?

Munoz is convinced it will not. She says that the IOC will be far more impressed by a country that has investigated its wrongs and done something about them, rather than kicking its junkie past into a side street and continuing to ignore it.

She may be right, but I suspect there are many in government with vested interests in a successful bid who don’t share her views, whatever they say publicly She probably has some very uncomfortable conversations in the corridors of power ahead of her.

Remember that this is a country in which highly-placed officials have been accused of encouraging doping to produce better athletes and have also been accused of trying to cover up positive tests. Nothing has ever been proved but these rumours persist.

Charming, intelligent and clearly determined, Munoz might just succeed. She will work closely with a man she recruited only this week from the police force. His name is Captain Enrique Gomez - the same Captain Gomez who led the raid on Dr Fuentes’ clinic. There is nothing that Captain Gomez does not know about Operacion Puerto and Munoz will find him an invaluable ally.

Police image of a blood bag being recovered Credit: Guardia Civil

So where might this all lead? As we know, doping was not a criminal offence at the time, but trafficking drugs for doping certainly was, as was money laundering and tax evasion.

Athletes were paying tens of thousands of euros every year to be doped and of course they competed not just in Spain but all over the world.

We don’t know the exact details but Lance Armstrong is facing a criminal investigation in Spain and if the names on Fuentes’ list are as widely scattered as we think they are, he won’t be the only one.

Munoz is insistent that it is not just athletes who bear the brunt of any future action but their doctors, coaches, managers and team owners too.

She has bold, principled ambitions and there are many on her side who want her to succeed. But there are also many, lurking in the shadows, who would rather she didn’t.