In an ironic twist that had earlier in the day seen the Union Cycliste International (UCI) issue a press release showing Caisse d’Epargne rider Alejandro Valverde still in the lead of the world professional rankings, this evening a second announced that he was now suspended for two years following a long investigation by the international Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) into the long-running Operacion Puerto blood doping scandal.
If it's not the end - Valverde's Spanish federation will now most likely have to respond having hitherto refused to co-operate by handing over incriminating evidence - at least it looks like being the beginning of the end of a messy business that began when the Italian Olympic authorities took a blood sample from the Spaniard at the 2008 Tour de France as it passed through Italy. Sure, enough, it matched one of the blood bags containing the banned blood booster EPO from the now-famous 2006 Operacion Puerto Spanish police raid against the notorious Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes.
Puerto eventually sealed the downfall of Jan Ullrich and 34 other professional cyclists including Valverde - whose blood bag was labelled 'Valv. (Piti) after his pet dog - although, interestingly none of the up to 200 footballers and tennis players that were also implicated but never named after the raid.
Today CAS announced, "The CAS has partially upheld the appeals filed by the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) against the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) and the Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde. Accordingly, the CAS has imposed a two-year ban on Alejandro Valverde starting on 1 January 2010 but has denied the request of the UCI and WADA that results obtained by the athlete prior to the beginning of the suspension be annulled.”
On this last point, although he gets to keep his official places at the 2009 Dauphiné Libéré and Vuelta e Espana, he does lose his places since 1st Jan for example the Tour de Romandie, his UCI points - making Cadel Evans the new world number one - and he has to return any prizes received.
Here's the full announcement from the UCI.
Press release - CAS decision on the Alejandro Valverde case: the UCI’s reaction
31. 05. 2010
The International Cycling Union (UCI) is satisfied by the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on the Alejandro Valverde case. Mr Valverde has been suspended from all competition for two years commencing 1 January 2010.
By deciding to suspend the Spanish rider, the CAS agreed with the UCI, which had appealed in 2007 together with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) against the refusal of the Spanish Cycling Federation to open disciplinary proceedings against Mr Valverde for his involvement in Operation Puerto.
The UCI and cycling as a whole have certainly suffered greatly from this affair. The damage caused by Mr Valverde's behaviour since the UCI became convinced of his guilt cannot be fully compensated for by this regulatory sanction. Nevertheless, the UCI is now relieved and contented with CAS’s decision as it resolves a situation that had become untenable.
Following the CAS's decision, Mr Valverde will not be allowed to participate in any cycling events before 31 December 2011. Furthermore, he has been disqualified from all competitions in which he has competed since the beginning of the year and all points allocated to him have been removed. Mr Valverde must also return all prizes received.
The UCI World Ranking has been modified accordingly.