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Tadej Valjavec (Ag2r-La Mondiale)
Federation forced to defend the validity of its biological passport system
The legal and biological validity of the UCI's biological passport programme will go under close scrutiny in front of the Court for Arbitration for Sport after the UCI decided to appeal against the Slovenian Cycling Federation's decision to clear Tadej Valjavec of an anti-doping violation.
According to the AFP news agency, the UCI met Friday's deadline to file an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport based in Lausanne, Switzerland. No hearing date has been set but the case is expected to take several months.
Valjavec was provisionally suspended by the Ag2-La Mondiale in early May after the UCI revealed that blood values on his biological passport showed suspected signs of doping. Italy's Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas-Doimo) and Spain's Jesus Rosendo (Andalucia-Cajasur) were also named by the UCI as having suspicious biological passport data.
Valjavec is a stage race rider and finished seventh overall in the Tour de Suisse after leading the race for several days. He also finished in tenth at the Tour de France in 2008. During his career he has ridden for Fassa Bortolo, Phonak, Lampre and Ag2r-La Mondiale.
In accordance with UCI regulations, the Slovenian national federation was asked to begin disciplinary proceedings against Valjavec. They eventually refused to discipline him, accepting that variations in his blood values could have been caused by a stomach ulcer, altitude training, using a hypobaric chamber and treatment with a corticoid after a wasp sting. He was reintegrated into the AG2r-La Mondiale team in July and rode the Tour du Doubs at the end of August.
In documents explain their decision, which were published by Tuttobici , the Slovenian Federation called into question the validity of the UCI's passport scheme. The documents claim that "the statistical methods adopted by the biological passport cannot demonstrate the use of doping techniques but only evidence eventual unusual value that could be explained by physiological origins."
The Slovenian federation also claimed the UCI biological passport does not take into account the altitude of where a rider lives and trains.The UCI did not reply when contacted by Cyclingnews.
The eventual CAS sentence could either strengthen or weaken the validity of the UCI's passport system. Several riders have already been suspended using the long-term study of blood values even though they banned substances such as EPO were not found in an anti-doping test.