Echávarri defends Valverde against Tour exclusion rumours

By Antonio J. Salmerón

With widely publicised speculation regarding star Caisse d'Epargne rider Alejandro Valverde's involvement in Operación Puerto, rumors have now began to cast doubt on his Tour de France participation, according to the Spanish radio SER. Valverde was initially suspected of involvement in the affair on grounds that one of the of the blood bags found the clinic of Eufemiano Fuentes in Madrid was labelled 'Valv.piti'.

According to the Caisse d'Epargne manager José Miguel Echávarri, the name was linked to Alejandro Valverde by French and Italian media, who reported that 'Piti' was the name of Valverde's dog. But Echávarri railed against the having to face accusations "when there is not any judicial link established," he clarified on Thursday afternoon to Cyclingnews. The constant rumors have led the team to threaten legal action against news outlets that perpetuate them.

Echávarri spoke similar words on the SER radio program, adding, "The Tour did not say to us that we cannot start with Valverde. They did not say this because they can't say it. The UCI clarified that Valverde is not involved in the Operación Puerto and until today, nothing has changed."

Echávarri told Cyclingnews that, "Some press media close to the Tour de France is publishing information without any rigor and seriousness that attempt to harm the presumption of innocence of the sportsman [Valverde]."

Echávarri expressed that he is tired of "so much hypocrisy and lies, of so many public accusations without apparent basis to them." He decided yesterday morning to phone to the the Tour de France organisation, "in order to request seriousness from them." He denied that the Tour contacted him requesting that Valverde not participate in the Tour. "That is not true. The Tour did not tell me that Valverde must not participate in the next Tour de France, but I do not like the position they are adopting regarding the false rumors on Valverde," Echávarri insisted to Cyclingnews.

"After listening these false reports, you are confused and defenceless. We have always been very rigorous in this sense", the Caisse d'Epargne team manager expressed. He assured that, "I always try to convince everyone in cycling that we have to be respectful with the presumption of innocence of anyone, and, if they are sure that there are true accusations against anyone, they are free to retire his license". In this sense, Echávarri admitted that "there is much lack of unity in the cycling

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