Movistar has cancelled today’s planned presentation in Madrid of its ‘new’ star signing for the 2012 season, former world number one Alejandro Valverde, after the UCI stepped in, pointing out that he’s still serving out a two-year ban for doping.
Valverde rode for the same team in its previous incarnation as Caisse d’Epargne, and throughout his suspension has continued to train with some of the team's riders – Xavier Tondo, who had joined Movistar in 2011, was heading out for a training ride with him when he was killed after becoming trapped between his car and garage door last May.
In a statement on its website, Movistar confirmed that the UCI had forbidden it to unveil Valverde “by virtue of an interpretation of international rules with which we are in profound disagreement,” adding that it had been obliged to comply as a result of potential sanctions.
The 31-year-old was handed a two-year ban in May 2010, backdated to 1 January of that year, following a protracted legal process that had begun when the 2008 Tour de France, in which he was riding, made a brief detour into Italy.
Italian authorities established that a sample taken from the cyclist at that time was a DNA match for blood contained in a bag seized during Operacion Puerto in Spain in 2006, labelled ‘Valv.Piti’ – Piti apparently being the name of Valverde’s dog, although he has denied that.
In May 2009, he was banned from competing in Italy for two years, and in May 2010, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, at the request of the UCI and WADA, gave him a two year worldwide ban, effective from 1 January 2010. He was stripped of results obtained in the opening months of the 2010 season, but allowed to keep his 2009 Vuelta title.
In January this year, Valverde’s appeal to the Supreme Court of Switzerland, where WADA was based, failed. In short, he had argued that evidence gathered in an investigation in one jurisdiction, Spain, could not be introduced in a separate jurisdiction.
Valverde ended the both the 2006 and 2008 seasons as winner of the UCI ProTour, now replaced by the world ranking. In 2009, he took the overall victory in the Vuelta as well as the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré, which he had also won in 2008. His other major wins include Liege-Bastogne-Liege, the Fleche Wallonne and the Clasica de San Sebastian.
He remains the only Spanish cyclist to have been formally sanctioned as a result of Operacion Puerto, although it should be noted that Spain’s own national federation, the RFEC, had no involvement in the chain of events that led to his ban.
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.