Contrary to a team Caisse d'Epargne statement issued Tuesday, it appears that the timeframe of the legal appeal by Alejandro Valverde is not the reason why he will miss this year's Tour de France. Neither the Spaniard nor his team used the full legal options, according to a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) official.
Caisse d'Epargne announced Tuesday that Valverde was withdrawn from the squad for to the Tour de France due to the courts moving too slowly.
"Under these circumstances and, knowing that a stage of the race will pass through the Italian territory, we are obliged to announce that Alejandro Valverde will not take the start of the 2009 Tour," said the team in a statement.
"The CAS could have set up an expedited procedure."
CAS secretary general Matthieu Reeb contradicted this version of events when he spoke with Cyclingnews. He stated the appeal against Italy's decision to ban Valverde from racing in its country is ongoing. He added that two fast-track options were open to the rider and his legal team, but that neither of these had been used.
"The CAS could have set up an expedited procedure, with the agreement of the parties, in order to render a decision prior to 4 July 2009," he said.
Reeb said Valverde alternatively could have requested "a stay of execution" in order to start in the 2009 Tour, but no request was filed.
Italian anti-doping tribunal banned Valverde on May 11 from competing on Italian soil for two years. Investigators proved he was involved in 2006's doping investigation, Operación Puerto. The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) had reportedly matched DNA from blood bags seized to the blood samples the rider gave on the Tour de France's rest day in Italy on July 21, 2008.
This year's Tour crosses briefly into Italy during the 16th stage to Bourg-Saint-Maurice and prevents Valverde from finishing the race. He requested organisers let him ride the race up until that point, but they refused.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) are now involved in the case and Valverde could face a worldwide ban.
Cyclingnews unsuccessfully attempted to reach Caisse team manager Eusebio Unzúe for a comment. The team or its sponsors may have been under pressure to withdraw Valverde from the Tour team, according to a statement in Spain's Marca Tuesday.
"Valverde experienced a difficult situation. This damaged the image of our sponsor, Caisse d'Epargne, whose dedication to the sport should not be harmed during the biggest race of the year," said a team statement. The team backer is a French bank.
Belgian rider Tom Boonen is also unwelcome at the Tour. Organiser and the recently replaced French Secretary for Sports, Bernard Laporte, refused him on the grounds that his inclusion could bring negative publicity to the event. He tested positive for cocaine in April.