Alejandro Valverde has lost his appeal at the Swiss Federal Court against the two-year worldwide ban imposed on him by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) last May as a result of his links to Operacion Puerto. According to Spanish press reports, the cyclist is now said to be considering taking his case to the European Court of Human Rights, his final course of appeal.
The former Caisse d’Epargne rider, winner of the 2009 Vuelta, had asked the Swiss Federal Court to overturn the decision of the CAS, which is based in Lausanne. That decision in turn followed an action brought by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and world cycling’s governing body, the UCI, which had been frustrated by the lack of action taken against the rider by the Spanish national federation, the RFEC, and which were seeking to have his ban from racing in Italy extended worldwide.
That Italian ban came about after Valverde had been linked to Operacion Puerto when a sample taken from him in Italy when the 2008 Tour de France briefly visited that country was found to be a DNA match for blood contained in a bag condenamed “VALV.PITI” – Piti, apparently, being the name of his dog, athough Valverde has denied that – seized by the Spanish authorities as part of Operacion Puerto.
The cyclist’s chief argument in his appeal has rested on legal technicalities, with his lawyers arguing that evidence seized as part of an investigation in one jurisdiction, Spain, cannot be introduced in a case in another country, Italy, and that the CAS had no powers to make its decision based on that.
Valverde’s ban, backdated to 1 January 2010, means that he will not be free to race again until the 2012 season begins, but the cyclist has consistently criticised the perceived “injustice” of his situation, telling Spanish sports daily Marca last year that he was “being robbed of the best years of my career.”
Speaking to Marca shortly before Christmas, Valverde said: "I have passed hundreds of drug tests in my career and they have all my blood values. For three years I was world number one on the UCI rankings and they know that I've never caused a problem or given an abnormal value, so it's clear I won despite the pressure I was under and despite being the world's most tested cyclist."
Valverde added that he intented to come back in winning form once his ban had expirted, and although Movistar, the successor to Caisse d'Epargne, is his most likely destination for 2012, he hasn't ruled out riding elsewhere.
The 30-year-old remains the only Spanish cyclist to have been sanctioned as a result of Operacion Puerto.
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.