As Spaniard prepares in Australia, court decides his fate
Alejandro Valverde's legal team will have been passing on good and bad news to the Spanish rider at the end of the first day of his appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport against his two-year ban from competition in Italy.
Valverde, who is currently in Australia preparing for the Tour Down Under, is challenging the ban imposed by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) on the basis of DNA evidence collected by them in the wake of the 2006 Operacion Puerto blood doping investigation. The UCI and World Anti-Doping Agency have supported CONI's stance and asked for the ban to be extended across the world.
The good news for Valverde was that the CAS rejected the request to extend the ban. According to Antonio Sánchez Sabater, Valverde's representative in Lausanne where the case is being heard: "The three organisations came here lined up against Alejandro to sanction him at a worldwide level.
"The initial news is that after listening to arguments on both sides, the CAS has said that this summons was only going to deal with the ban as related to Italian territory, which has been in force since May 11 and prevented him from riding the Tour de France."
Sánchez added: "The CAS has indicated that it will not be making any assessment on whether Valverde should be sanctioned worldwide." This does mean, however, that the UCI and WADA cannot take action of their own against Valverde in due course.
Less good for Valverde is the news that the CAS has also indicated that the CONI is competent to rule on a sanction for alleged doping. Valverde's legal team were hoping to show that the CONI stepped outside legal parameters in the way it obtained a blood bag seized during the Puerto affair. CONI then used DNA testing to compare a sample from this blood bag with a separate sample given by Valverde during a race on Italian soil. CONI subsequently announced the DNA tests had shown both came from Valverde and imposed its ban.
Speaking in Lausanne on Tuesday, CONI prosecutor Ettore Torri was blunt in his assessment of Vuelta winner Valverde: "Valverde is a doper. Even the intention to use the contents of the blood bag is against the code laid down by WADA… The law must be equal towards everyone. [Spanish] Judge [Antonio] Serrano sent us all the documentation in order to take action against [Ivan] Basso and [Michele] Scarponi, but then refused to do it in Valverde's case."
On Wednesday the CAS is set to hear from Valverde's former Kelme team-mate Jesús Manzano and Spanish federation secretary-general Eugenio Bermúdez. Another issue that will be discussed is the code name Val.(piti) that is alleged to indicate Valverde's involvement with the Puerto blood doping ring as his Alsatian dog is called Piti. Valverde's defence team will maintain that the dog had not been born in 2004, when the blood in the disputed bag was extracted.
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