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.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.