Although it has been scientifically proven that Spanish pro cyclist Roberto Heras used recombinant EPO (rEPO) to achieve his fourth Vuelta a España victory - which will now be awarded to Rabobank rider Denis Menchov - the 31 year-old continues to deny that he has taken the banned substance and is determined to clear his name. "Right now, I don't think of retirement at all, rather about fighting until the very end to show my innocence," Heras told Spanish media over the week-end following the analysis of his B sample. "To me, my personal and professional credibility is more important than to win the Vuelta a España," he added.
To achieve this, Heras appointed his attorney José María Buxeda to recur to all pertinent legal instances. "If the Spanish Cycling Federation sanctions us (sic), we'll appeal," Buxeda said. "Then we'll continue with the instances in sports, the Spanish ones as well as the Court of Arbitration for Sport. If needed, we will recur to a civil court, too."
Buxeda doubts the validity of the test approved by the international institutions UCI, IOC and WADA. Another argument of the lawyer will be an error of form in the testing procedure. "We want to know what happened during the transport of the vials to the laboratory," Buxeda said in Sunday's L'Equipe. "As I understand, the driver of the transporter delivered them only on Monday, as the day before was a Sunday. What happened with the samples between Saturdays, the day of the time trial, and Monday morning?"
Heras, former team mate of Lance Armstrong at US Postal, has now officially been sacked from his Liberty Seguros team. In a statement, the squad announced the cessation of the rider's contract. Team director Manolo Saiz said that he was "deeply saddened" upon hearing the news of the positive counter-analysis, but that he hoped that Heras could "prove his innocence in the near future. He can always count on my support."
Meanwhile, many Spanish cycling personalities have expressed their outrage over the doping case, which overshadows one of the nation's greatest teams, Liberty Seguros, whose fate has yet to be determined by its American sponsor. Ignacio Ayuso, head of the Vuelta a España, shared some of his thoughts with As.com. "If Heras says he's innocent, that he didn't take anything, he should accuse Liberty. If he's not the one responsible for this, he shouldn't let them sack him like this. On the other hand, if Liberty is certain that it wasn't the team doctors who administered the cyclist something prohibited, the team should sue Heras for the damages he caused the sponsor, who puts in a lot of money. This works in all businesses. Why not in cycling?," Ayuso asked.
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