Thu, Mar 18, 2010 - Page 19 News List

Vuelta champion Valverde loses doping ban appeal

AP , GENEVA

Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde lost his appeal on Tuesday against a two-year doping ban from racing in Italy.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that Italy’s Olympic committee was allowed to suspend last year’s Spanish Vuelta champion using evidence seized by Spanish police in 2006 in the Operation Puerto investigation.

Valverde said he was denied a fair trial and vowed to challenge the “unacceptable” verdict at the Swiss Federal Court. It only has authority over CAS — which is based in Lausanne, Switzerland — if it finds the sports court abused the legal process.

The Italian Olympic body banned Valverde last May after it matched DNA evidence from a blood bag taken at a Madrid clinic allegedly involved in an athletes’ blood-doping ring with his sample obtained when the 2008 Tour de France crossed into Italy.

“The Italian judicial authorities had obtained ... a sample from this bag which, according to an analysis performed by the Barcelona laboratory in 2006, contained EPO,” CAS said in a statement.

EPO is a synthetic hormone that boosts endurance by increasing the production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells.

Valverde appealed to CAS that the Italians had no legal right to judge him, and should not use Spanish evidence.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Valverde said the CAS panel of three arbitrators ignored a Madrid provincial court decision that Puerto evidence could not be used.

Valverde also claimed German lawyer Ulrich Haas had a conflict of interest and should have been removed from the panel because he previously worked with the World Anti-Doping Agency, which took part in legal arguments before the three-day hearing in January.

Valverde is banned from racing in Italy until May 10 next year, but can still race elsewhere despite efforts by the International Cycling Union (UCI) to extend the ban worldwide.

Valverde finished second on Sunday in the Paris-Nice race, the first major stage event of the European season.

This year’s Tour de France, cycling’s signature event, also does not enter Italy. Valverde’s Caisse d’Epargne team could not select him for last year’s race because one stage went on Italian roads.

However, the 29-year-old racer faces another threat to his sporting liberty at CAS this week.

A four-day case is scheduled to begin today pitting Valverde and his national cycling federation against the combined forces of WADA and the UCI.

The global doping watchdog and cycling’s governing body have been frustrated in their attempts to sanction Valverde since the Puerto case opened. They have gone to CAS to challenge the Spanish federation’s consistent refusal to open disciplinary proceedings against Valverde using evidence from the Puerto probe.

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