Tour de France - Valverde to appeal two-year ban

Reuters - Mon, 31 May 23:01:00 2010

Alejandro Valverde will appeal a two-year ban that would see him miss the next two editions of the Tour de France after the Spaniard was found guilty of violating anti-doping rules.

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The Court of Arbitration for Sport imposed the ban, backdated to start January 1, after accepting evidence which linked the Tour of Spain champion to the Operation Puerto anti-doping investigation.

The decision followed an appeal launched by the World Anti-Doping Agency and the International Cycling Union back in 2007 against the Spanish cycling federation's failure to act against Valverde over findings from the investigation.

Valverde was unable to take part in last year's Tour de France because it passed through Italy, where he is already serving a two-year ban over the same case.

"In its decision, the CAS Panel found, by a majority, that it could use the evidence collected in the course of Operation Puerto for the purpose of CAS arbitration," said a CAS statement.

"The CAS panel also found, by a majority, that the scientific evidence... was sufficient to conclude that Valverde committed an anti-doping rule violation, considering that Valverde's blood contained EPO, a prohibited substance."

However, CAS said that his results before January 1 would be allowed to stand.

"CAS considered that there was no evidence that any of the results obtained by Valverde prior to January 1, 2010, was through doping infraction and decided that the appellants' request to annul those results should be denied."

Valverde issued a statement saying he would appeal the ruling: "CAS have recognised that all Valverde's victories have been achieved through fair play... he has never given a positive in a dope test. We consider the punishment totally unjust and illegal.

"For this reason we will appeal against it to the Swiss Federal Tribunal, the highest Swiss body, whose decisions can be appealed to European Court of Human Rights."

Operation Puerto was launched after raids in Madrid and Zaragoza, where police found large quantities of anabolic steroids, laboratory equipment used for blood transfusions and more than 200 bags of code-named blood, some of which were linked to leading cyclists.

Spain's Civil Guard listed more than 50 riders implicated in the affair.

In August 2007, the UCI asked the Spanish cycling federation to start proceedings against Valverde on the basis of evidence from the operation, including "blood bag number 18", which allegedly contained Valverde's blood, CAS said.

Shortly afterwards, the Spanish federation turned down the request, prompting the appeal to CAS.

However, Italian authorities later opened disciplinary proceedings against Valverde saying blood samples Valverde gave at a doping control in 2008 - when the Tour de France entered Italy - matched DNA from code-named bags of blood discovered in Operation Puerto,

In May last year, the Italian Olympic Committee banned Valverde from racing in the country for two years.

Valverde appealed to CAS against the Italian ban but lost the case in March.

"The UCI has noted the CAS decision with satisfaction," said the UCI in a statement.

"The UCI and cycling together have certainly suffered considerably in this affair, and the damage caused by the behaviour of Valverde cannot by entirely compensated by the statutory penalty," it said, adding that the situation had become untenable.

The UCI added that Valverde's results since Jan. 1 would be annulled and he would be ordered to pay back any prize money.

In his statement Valverde also contested the UCI statement about his results since Jan 1. saying CAS had clearly stated all his past results would stand up until today as he had been passed as clean in all those races.

In August 2007, the UCI asked the Spanish cycling federation to start proceedings against Valverde on the basis of evidence from the operation, including "blood bag number 18", which allegedly contained Valverde's blood, CAS said.

Shortly afterwards, the Spanish federation turned down the request, prompting the appeal to CAS.

However, Italian authorities later opened disciplinary proceedings against Valverde saying blood samples Valverde gave at a doping control in 2008 - when the Tour de France entered Italy - matched DNA from code-named bags of blood discovered in Operation Puerto,

In May last year, the Italian Olympic Committee banned Valverde from racing in the country for two years.

Valverde appealed to CAS against the Italian ban but lost the case in March.

"The UCI has noted the CAS decision with satisfaction," said the UCI in a statement.

"The UCI and cycling together have certainly suffered considerably in this affair, and the damage caused by the behaviour of Valverde cannot by entirely compensated by the statutory penalty," it said, adding that the situation had become untenable.

The UCI added that Valverde's results since January 1 would be annulled and he would be ordered to pay back any prize money.

Dauphine Libere: Sunday 5pm LIVE on British Eurosport 2 (Sky 411 / Virgin 525) & on the Eurosport Player.

Reuters

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