By Gregor Brown
Italian Olympic Committee's (CONI) decision whether to suspend Spaniard Alejandro Valverde based on supposed ties to the Operación Puerto doping investigation is expected next week. Head prosecutor Ettore Torri will likely give a suspension to the Caisse d'Epargne rider based upon DNA evidence gained in last year's Tour de France.
The Olympic committee summonsed Valverde on February 11 based upon supposed DNA matches between the blood it collected when the 2008 Tour de France visited Italy and the blood collected in the May 2006 Operación Puerto anti-doping raids. Madrid court documents supposedly link the cyclist to Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, who was at the centre of a series of blood transfer banks for athletes.
Valverde appeared at the Italian Olympic Committee's headquarters in Rome on February 19 to answer to Torri. His attorney Federico Cecconi sent a 21-page document to counter the allegations on March 5, one day prior to Valverde's deadline to respond to CONI.
A recommended suspension by Torri would not stop Valverde from participating in races outside of Italy, such as Vuelta a Castilla y León, March 23 to 27. However, the International Cycling Union (UCI) told Cyclingnews last month that it would look at the case if Torri pronounces him guilty.
"If everything has been made accordingly with the rules, we will also recognize and enforce it worldwide," said its spokesman Enrico Carpani.
Valverde's most recent race this season was the Clasica de Almeria. His palmarès includes wins in two editions of Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the 2006 Flèche Wallonne and the International Cycling Union's (UCI) ProTour classification in 2006 and 2008.