New doping claims surround Alejandro Valverde

Cyclist's name reportedly appears in seized documents, while media reports appeal against CAS decision has failed

by Simon_MacMichael   April 29, 2010  

Alejandro Valverde and Leon Luis Sanchez (photo credit Tour Down Under : John Veage).jpg

2009 Vuelta winner Alejandro Valverde’s achievements on the bike, the latest being a third-place podium finish behind Alexander Vinokourov in last Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne- Liège – continue to be overshadowed by the Caisse d’Epargne rider’s alleged links to doping.

This week finds the Caisse d’Epargne rider the potential recipient of two bits of very bad news for his career, with his name apparently connected to a recently uncovered doping scandal in Spain and press reports claiming that he has lost his appeal to the Swiss Federal Court over a ruling last month by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that upheld his two-year ban from racing in Italy.

While the Swiss Federal Court has not published its ruling yet, according to a Reuters report published on ESPN’s website, the Italian media are stating that the ruling has gone against Valverde.

That case is concerned with a two-year ban imposed on the cyclist by the Italian Olympic association, CONI, after blood samples taken from the cyclist when the 2008 Tour de France crossed into Italy were found to be a DNA match for blood seized during Operacion Puerto which bore the codename Valv.Piti, allegedly referring to the first four letters of his surname plus the name of his dog.

A ruling is still awaited on a second case involving Valverde heard by the CAS in Lausanne last month, in which the World Anti Doping Authority (WADA) and the sport’s governing body, the UCI, protested the failure of RFEC, the Spanish cycling federation, to open disciplinary proceedings against the rider as a result of his alleged links to Operacion Puerto.

Should that decision, expected next month, go against Valverde, that would pave the way to him being handed a two-year ban by the UCI, while the Swiss Federal Court’s ruling on the earlier CAS decision, if reports are true, are also likely to result in the governing body extending the rider’s ban from racing in Italy to worldwide.

As if that weren’t enough to keep Valverde’s lawyers busy, a Spanish newspaper has this week claimed that documents have been found explicitly linking his name to a drugs ring broken up in Valencia last November following a police investigation called Operacion Grial ('grail').

That operation centered around a sports doctor, Walter Virú, not only an ex-colleague of Eufemiano Fuentes, the doctor implicated in Operacion Puerto, but also the doctor of the Kelme team that Valverde raced for between 2002 and 2004.

The newspaper Público reports that police involved in Operacion Grial have seized computer records and handwritten documents that among other things specify when particular cyclists received performance-enhancing drugs and that they clearly link Valverde’s name to the investigation.

The documents are said to have been sent to Judge Antonio Serrano, who conducted Operacion Puerto, and according to reports, riders’ names have not been rendered in code, unlike those in the previous investigation. It is thought that Virú’s failure to destroy those documents may have been due to him wanting to retain them in case he needed to use them in the future.

Under WADA rules, documents more than eight years old cannot be used in evidence in connection with doping allegations, meaning that any bearing Valverde’s name dated prior to April 2002 would be inadmissible; however, since that coincides with the start of his career with Kelme, it could be that the cyclist is about to find himself embroiled in yet another round of litigation.
 

3 user comments

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I never understood why the original Operation Puerto investigation didn't do DNA profile tests on the blood bags and suspected riders.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1393 posts]
29th April 2010 - 13:46

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I have never understood why the UCI allowed him to carry on racing.

Now the UCI are possibly going to look even more stupid.

demoff's picture

posted by demoff [344 posts]
30th April 2010 - 8:10

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To be fair to the UCI, I think the specifics of this case put it in a very difficult position, because of its unique characteristics - Valverde has never failed a drugs test, the Italian ban throws up issues of international law in terms of whether evidence gathered in one country's jurisdiction can be used in another country, and the failure of the Spanish authorities to take any action.

The noises coming from the UCI make it clear that they want to take action against him, but what that will be depends on the outcome of the case heard last month by CAS in which WADA and the UCI are trying to force RFEC to act.

As things stand, they could extend the Italian ban worldwide, but that would mean that he would be back racing in a year's time. But if the CAS decision expected next month goes the way of WADA/UCI, that would pave the way for a fresh two-year ban.

They're probably as frustrated as anyone else that this has dragged on so long, initially it was envisaged that this would all have been wrapped up before the end of 2009, and in the meantime every podium finish by Valverde has people wondering why on earth he is still racing.

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8861 posts]
30th April 2010 - 9:19

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