Over a month after being told he was not welcome in the Tour de France, Alejandro Valverde topped a victory podium again when he won the Vuelta a Burgos. The Spanish Caisse d'Epargne rider got clear of race leader Tom Danielson (Garmin Slipstream) on the final climb of the race and eked out enough of an advantage to finish twelve seconds ahead of him in the general classification.
However many are wondering how he is still racing, given what CONI (The Italian Olympic Committee) says is clear evidence that he was involved in Operación Puerto. It said that DNA tests carried out proved that Valverde's blood was stored by Eufemiano Fuentes, and that he is the rider known as Valv. Piti.
CONI has banned him from racing in Italy and this ruling preventing him from being able to take part in the Tour de France, as stage 16 of the race crossed into Italian territory. Valverde requested permission to start the race and to ride the first fifteen stages, but Tour organisers ASO said that he was not welcome.
Both WADA and the UCI have indicated that they want disciplinary action taken against Valverde, who could face a worldwide ban. However the Spanish federation refused to take the case further.
This, according to UCI President Pat McQuaid, is why Valverde is still competing. "The UCI/WADA appeal against the decision of RFEC not to proceed against Vaverde is still outstanding with CAS," he told Cyclingnews on Sunday. "Also, the Valverde appeal against the CONI decision is still with CAS. Until those processes are concluded, he is free to race."
McQuaid will be hoping that WADA can make a ruling prior to the start of the Vuelta a España. If the Spaniard is successful in the race but is then served with a worldwide ban, it would bring a lot of negative attention to the race.
For his part, Valverde will also hope for a resolution, although clearly he'll be hoping CAS supports his side of the argument.
Valverde said after the conclusion of the race that he has clear ambitions for the Vuelta a España, which starts in the Netherlands at the end of the month. "I will keep on working to arrive at one hundred percent of my condition in Assen on August 29," he said. "There I will try to claim my first victory in a three-week major Tour."