Spaniard allowed to race Ardennes Classics despite doping case
The Amaury Sport Organisation, organizer of the Flèche Wallonne and Liège - Bastogne - Liège Classics, has stated that it will respect the process which is underway regarding Spaniard Alejandro Valverde's doping ban in Italy and alleged involvement in the Operación Puerto. However, ASO will not block his participation in both races this week.
Race director Christian Prudhomme told AFP, "Sure it has been a long time and we would like to see things move faster. It has been five seasons since the Puerto affair poisoned cycling."
News reports linking Valverde to the Spanish doping scandal surfaced in 2007 when his name was said to be coded as 'Valv.Piti' and '18' in the dossier of evidence collected by the Spanish Civil Guard in May, 2006.
The case was repeatedly blocked by the Spanish judge, who ruled that activities which took place in the Madrid clinic of Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes were not in violation of Spanish law at the time. He also ruled that the evidence, some 100 bags of blood as well as paperwork and doping products, could not be used by any outside agency to impose punishment on the athletes.
That did not stop the CONI's (Italian Olympic Committee) anti-doping prosecutor from obtaining the evidence in December, 2008 and matching the blood evidence to samples taken from Valverde during the Italian stages of the 2008 Tour de France.
The bag coded 18 was found to have traces of the banned blood booster EPO, which led the Italian authorities to pursue the case as a doping offense.
CONI handed Valverde a two-year ban from racing on Italian soil, the maximum penalty possible within its jurisdiction. The move prevented him from racing in the 2009 Tour de France, which crossed over the border into Italy.
Valverde appealed the ban to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) this spring and lost. The International Cycling Union (UCI) has now appealed to CAS to extend the ban worldwide. A decision is expected next month.
The position of ASO to allow Valverde to race in the 2010 editions of La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège is in stark contrast to an edict issued prior to the 2007 Liège - Bastogne - Liège, before Valverde was linked to the scandal. That year the ASO pushed to prevent any suspected riders from participating in its events.
The UCI attempted to block Valverde from participating in the 2007 World Championships, but the Spaniard appealed the decision to CAS and won.
Valverde won both La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2006 and went on to win in Liège again in 2008.