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.
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.