In 2005, Heras initially gained the dubious distinction of being the first Grand Tour winner to be stripped of his title following his reported positive test. In 2012, he later recovered his Vuelta a España title – which had been awarded, in his place, to runner-up Denis Menchov – after Spain's Supreme Court, the country's highest judicial authority, confirmed a previous legal ruling from 2011 that there had been irregularities in the testing procedure, which annulled the two-year ban and penalty.
Now Heras has won another legal battle, after a Spanish court has awarded him €724,000 in compensation for loss of earnings. After being fired by Liberty Seguros, his team of the time, and his subsequent suspension in 2005, Heras was unable to continue his career.
Enriqe Bastida, the head of Spain's anti-doping agency, AEPSAD, strongly expressed his dissatisfaction with the sentence to Spanish newspaper MARCA, describing it as "unthinkable, in this day and age. With all due respect to the courts, doping is not something for legal debate, it's an ethical issue."
During his career as a top climber, Heras won the Vuelta a España a record-breaking four times, in 2000, 2003, 2004 and 2005, racing with Kelme, US Postal and Liberty Seguros. Now 41, he races in non-professional MTB events.
The latest sentence will now almost certainly be subject to an appeal, local media reported on Saturday, meaning a definitive outcome will not be reached until around 2018, more than 12 years after his positive test.
But the seemingly interminable time lapse in reaching such verdicts is anything but new for Spanish doping cases. On Saturday, MARCA said that the long-awaited final verdict on the appeal for the Operación Puerto anti-doping investigation will not now be published in January, as had been widely claimed, because the three judges overseeing the case have been unable to reach an agreement on what that verdict should be.