Roberto Heras has proclaimed his innocence of drug use after being suspended by his team following an A-sample test at the Vuelta a Espana that was non-negative for EPO.
"I was very surprised," Heras told the newspaper El Pais. "I am convinced it is a mistake because I have never taken anything."
The mistake, Heras believes, is some sort of error at the testing lab. "They told me the news at the end of October. The only thing I can think of is that it is a laboratory error," Heras, told radio station Onda Cero on Tuesday.
"My lawyers and the team are working on the case as we speak and there will be a 'B' test on November 21. I don't want to start speculating about whether the samples could have been mixed up, but when they open the samples for the second test we want to be there," he said.
If Heras B-sample confirms a positive finding he faces a two-year suspension from cycling and a four-year ban on riding for any ProTour team. He would also be stripped of his victory in the 2005 Vuelta a Espana, an event that Vuelta director Victor Cordero told the Reuters news service "would be a disaster for cycling in general and, within that context, for the Tour of Spain."
"On a purely personal level, I am hoping that the second test will be negative," Cordero said. "But if we have to take action, and Heras loses his title, we will take it, even if I am surprised that it has taken such a long time for the test result to come out."
If Heras' B-sample is also positive for EPO, runner-up Denis Menchov would be awarded the victory, but that's not a prospect that has Menchov's Rabobank team celebrating, even though it would be the team's first victory in a grand tour.
"We won't really have anything meaningful," said Rabobank team manager Theo de Rooij. "If Heras is found positive, Denis gets the victory for the history books. It changes figures and tables but it really doesn't mean anything else."
"We will just have a sour taste that Denis would have wanted to win the Vuelta under normal circumstances. But we can talk about that if Heras is found positive by the B sample test. It will look very bad for cycling for such a rider to test positive."