José Rujano comes out of retirement tomorrow as he begins his bid for a fourth Vuelta a Táchira title.
The Venezuelan has secured a new racing licence and will ride for the government backed Táchira state team. It was a close run thing for Rujano, who was still in the dark about whether or not he would be able to ride until yesterday.
President of the Venezuelan Cycling Federation (FVC), Artemio Leonett was accused of delaying the signing of the relevant documents by Rujano’s legal team, but he denied their was any issue on their side.
“We did not suspend him, it was he who decided to retire and therefore we had to issue him a new licence,” explained Leonett.
It has been nine months since Rujano last raced at the 2013 Tour de Romandie. Last March, Rujano was named as part of an investigation, known as Operación Amateur, into the trafficking of banned substances in Italy.
He denied any wrongdoing and yet to be officially charged or sanctioned, but was suspended from racing by his Vacansoleil-DCM team. By the end of June, Rujano had become frustrated by being sidelined and chose to retire, citing a lack of support, “nationally and internationally.”
The final two years of Rujano's career were frought with issues. He left the 2012 Giro d'Italia claiming he was suffering from mononucleosis, but his Androni-Giacattoli disputed this and he didn't race for them again. He signed for Vacansoleil, but hardly turned a pedal for them either. The highlight of his 10-year career was the 2005 Giro d’Italia, where he took third place, the mountain’s classification and three stage victories. He was national time trial champion on three separate occasions and won his national tour, the Vuelta a Venezuela, in 2009.
At one stage, the 31-year-old said that he would turn his focus on taking over at the FVC, but it seems that he hasn’t quite given up on racing just yet.
Leonett believes that Rujano can move on from the investigation and could even find himself in the national squad again. “What I will say is that it has been made right in the Italian courts, because the UCI has been asking me,” he said. “Now that he has an international license again, and if he is in good shape, we could even use him again in our selection, but for that he has to fix his problem [the Italian investigation], we could even help."
The Vuelta al Táchira takes place between January 10-19.