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Spanish cycling champion Valverde banned for two years

Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde received a two-year ban on Monday after being implicated in the Operation Puerto doping scandal which exploded in 2006. Valverde has been banned from racing in Italy since May 2009.


AFP - Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde on Monday received a two-year ban from world sport's top court, the CAS, over his implication in the Operation Puerto drugs scandal which erupted in 2006.

The ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport will please several bodies who have been campaigning to see an Italy-wide ban on the Spaniard extended worldwide.

The ban was backdated to January 1, 2010, meaning Valverde will be free to ride competitively again from December 31, 2011, meaning he would be able to compete at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Valverde, the recent winner of the Tour of Romandie in Switzerland and one of the most feared racers in hilly one-day classics and one-week stage races, has been banned from racing in Italy since May 2009.

The Italian authorities took a blood sample from the Spaniard at the 2008 Tour de France when it passed through the country, and it matched one of the blood bags containing the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin) from the 2006 Puerto raid.

"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," CAS said in a statement.

"Accordingly, the CAS has imposed a two-year ban on Alejandro Valverde starting on January 1, 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."

CAS found that the scientific evidence, "blood bag number 18, scientific evidence that such blood contained EPO, DNA evidence that clearly demonstrated that blood bag number 18 contained Mr Valverde's blood, "was sufficient to conclude that Mr Valverde committed an anti-doping rule violation".

UCI expressed its satisfaction with the ruling, saying the decision it took along with the WADA to pursue Valverde and the Spanish federation had been validated.

But it added that the damage Valverde had caused the UCI and cycling as a whole could not be totally compensated by the ruling, which the body accepted "with relief".

CAS said Valverde's case had arisen after an initial Spanish criminal investigation in 2004.

"On August 29, 2007, the UCI requested the RFEC to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Alejandro Valverde on the basis of the evidence gathered within the Operation Puerto proceedings, including the blood bag labelled 'blood bag number 18', the blood from which was purported to belong to Mr Valverde," it said.

"The RFEC denied the UCI's request and refused to open disciplinary proceedings against Mr Valverde.

"In October 2007, both the UCI and WADA each filed an appeal with the CAS, requesting that Alejandro Valverde be found guilty of an anti-doping violation and that a two-year suspension be imposed."

After that appeal, Valverde fell foul of the Italian authorities, the country's National Olympic Committee ruling that the Spaniard had "committed use, or attempted use of a prohibited substance or a prohibited method".

Valverde appealed that Italy ban with CAS, which upheld the ruling in March of this year.

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