Delgado on the defensive over Valverde

Former Spanish professional rider and TV commentator Pedro Delgado has joined the chorus of voices criticising the sanction imposed on Alejandro Valverde this week, lamenting the role of the International Cycling Union (UCI) in the case.

Europa Press reports that the 1988 Tour de France champion is critical of the time taken to impose the ban, which is effective from January 1 this year and prohibits the Caisse d'Epargne rider from competing until January 1, 2012.

The ban is effectively 19 months in duration due to his participation in races up until the Tour de Romandie, which he won, although that is of little comfort to those who support his cause. "I do not know why they had to wait so long [to decide on his ban] because he wanted to get on with things or decide that yes, there was no alternative," said Delgado after his participation in the European Symposium of Sport.

Delgado, who tested positive for probenecid after stage 17 of the 1988 Tour de France but was not sanctioned due to the drug being absent from the UCI's list of banned substances at the time, called the situation "bizarre" because Valverde's ban was handed down without the rider ever returning a positive anti-doping test.

"I think cycling, in the situation it is in, has to do things right, whether [the rider is] Spanish or not," he said, referring to the case of Liquigas' Franco Pellizotti, who was prevented from riding the Giro d'Italia for an anomaly in his biological passport. "The sanction seems laughable to me... the top leadership has taken a very wrong direction," he added.

The Segovia native sees no end to the story and the situation "saddens" him, adding, "the value of cycling in my time has deteriorated significantly," he said. "The UCI welcomes Valverde's two-year punishment when they have had four years control over the situation," referring to questions surrounding the Operación Puerto saga, that exploded in 2006.

"The controls of the UCI, which are the flag to save this sport don't mean anything because they punish someone who has had 60 [anti-doping] controls and they [the UCI] still cast doubt on his professionalism," he said.

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