Caisse d'Epargne rider Iván Gutiérrez has defended Alejandro Valverde in the wake of an announcement concerning his ban from racing worldwide, retrodated to be effective from January 1 this year.
The experienced Spaniard sent an open letter expressing his disdain with the punishment meted to his friend and colleague, explaining that it reflects the feelings of many Spanish riders and indeed those from outside Spain.
In concluding he makes an impassioned plea to end the injustices against professional cyclists, who he believes are the focus of unfair media attention in relation to doping and victims of the sport's desire to clean its image.
Below is the letter in full:
Since the year 2006 when the so-called Operation Puerto started, Spanish cycling has been staggering, week after week, month after month and now in June, four years later; this famous affair is not finished yet.
My name is Iván Gutiérrez and I have been a professional rider since the end of 1999. I took the decision to write this letter because as you can imagine I have been through many misadventures while pedaling and out of my bike but what I felt yesterday when I heard the news that team-mate and friend Alejandro Valverde had received a two-year ban is the last straw and I needed, even if I know that my opinion is just a drop in the ocean, that at least you who will read this letter are informed about how the majority of the Spanish cyclists are feeling.
Alejandro Valverde's case is the greatest injustice I met in all my life. Alejandro is a champion to whom the right to race will be denied. And if I tell you the truth neither I nor the majority of us know why.
Alejandro Valverde is the most talented riders, with real natural talent, I have ever seen in my 31-year-old life. I dare say his talent is unique. During the past ten years I have been the team-mate of some of the most talented riders - Olano, Beloki, Gonzalez de Galdeano, Jalabert, Pereiro and Menchov.
I rode against Armstrong, Contador and many, many riders who are still today still part of the world's elite. I therefore believe I have the right to claim that to prevent Alejandro to practice the sport for which he was born is absolutely unfair.
Alejandro Valverde is a rider who never had abnormal values in an anti-doping control and he is for sure the rider who underwent the greatest number of controls considering the fact he climbs on the podium in almost all the races he participates in, without taking into account the incredible number of out-of-competitions tests he is subjected to.
That is why I am asking: what should a sportsman, a cyclist, a destroyed community do, considering the lack of credibility the media grant to us, in lieu of the mistakes some unconscience people commit now and then, but as the word itself tells it we have to deal with people who are not able to distinguish which the rules of our exciting sport are and make so that all the members of the cycling family have to pay for their mistakes?
We, the cyclists, want and are fighting for clean cycling but we also need society's understanding. We have to be fighting together against all the injustices which still occur. Today it is Alejandro Valverde's turn but how many team-mates did we lose on the way since that famous year 2006? I hope my opinion will be useful as most of the riders agree with me.
I call on all the sporting authorities... S.O.S... Cycling is dying... Help us. Now.