Vuelta winner Alejandro Valverde is facing a worldwide ban from cycling after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) threw out his appeal against a decision of the Italian Olympic Committee, CONI, to ban him from racing in Italy for two years from May 2009.
That ban came about after a sample taken from Valverde during the Tour de France’s 2008 excursion into Italy was found to be a DNA match for a codenamed blood sample seized as part of the Spanish Operacion Puerto investigation.
That kept the Caisse d'Epargne rider, who finished second behind Alberto Contador in last week's Paris-Nice, out of last year’s Tour de France due to the race making a short diversion across the Alps into Italy.
Cycling’s governing body, the UCI, welcomed the decision, and said that it plans to take the necessary steps to ensure that the ban is enforced internationally.
You can read the full CAS decision here, and we have reproduced the UCI statement in full below:
“The UCI has noted the ruling issued by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on the appeal of Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde against the decision of the Italian National Anti-doping Tribunal to suspend him from all sports events organised in Italy for a two-year period beginning in May 2009, for having breached the anti-doping rules in the context of “Operation Puerto”.
"The UCI welcomes the decision of the CAS, which confirms the conclusions the UCI reached after conducting a thorough review of the documents relating to the Puerto case, and of Alejandro Valverde’s involvement in it.
"Consequently, after careful study of the grounds of the CAS decision, the UCI expresses its determination to take the necessary measures to secure a suspension that is applicable internationally,” the UCI's statement concluded.
But according to the Spanish sports daily AS, Valverde’s lawyers now plan to appeal today’s decision to the Swiss Federal Court and ask for it to be annulled, saying that one of the judges sitting on the CAS panel, Swiss national Ullrich Haas, could not be impartial because he has worked for the World Anti Doping Agency.
They also claim that the CAS had acted outside its powers in declaring invalid a Spanish judicial decision that prohibited the use of evidence gathered under Operation Puerto, and that Valverde’s fundamantal human rights – specifically his right to a fair trial and to privacy – had also been violated.
Meanwhile, in a press communiqué, Caisse d’Epargne said: “While it is prudent to await the full text of the judgment in order to evaluate its validity, we have to regret a decision that penalises a rider for offences apparently committed some time ago without taking account, as the rider without doubt deserves, of the irreproachable ethical behaviour that Valverde has displayed during his long tenure at Caisse d’Epargne.
The statement continued: “The Spanish team emphasises, that neither Alejandro nor the squad nor our sponsors nor cycling in general deserve this decision, with all due respect to the judicial panel of the CAS that has handed it down.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.