Slovenian rider Tadej Valjavec is back from his provisional suspension, having raced for the first time since April this year at the French Tour du Doubs last weekend. Valjavec was sidelined from competition by his AG2R La Mondiale team throughout this summer because the International Cycling Union (UCI) found irregular blood values dating from 2009 in his biological passport.
The UCI then handed the case over to the Slovenian Cycling federation, who was to decide on disciplinary action. But in mid-July, Valjavec was cleared by the Slovenian expert commission after having presented a solid medical file to support his case.
AG2R team manager Vincent Lavenu was thus obliged to re-integrate the rider in his team. "When the UCI received the official document from the Slovenian cycling federation, considering Valjavec innocent of the charges, of course we put him back in the circuit," Lavenu told Cyclingnews on Friday.
"The main element of Valjavec's defense file was that he has been suffering from a recurrent stomach ulcer for several years," explained Lavenu further. "This caused him important loss of blood, which to the commission explained his values."
While the team manager respected the authority of the sports institutions in carrying out regulatory procedures, he was critical of the way in which this particular case unfolded. "We took our responsibilities as a team and suspended him straight away as soon as the UCI notified us. But it is a bit annoying to find out that in the end, there was nothing... This affair hasn't tarnished our image much because we reacted swiftly, but it would have been less damaging for everybody if more research had been carried out before making the accusation," continued Lavenu.
Now, it is up to the UCI to decide whether or not to appeal the Slovenian federation's decision of clearing the rider. According to Lavenu, the world governing body of cycling will study Valjavec's defense file closely as the credibility of the biological passport is at stake.
"It won't be in their interest to appeal to CAS [Court of Arbitration for Sport - ed.] if they feel they might lose the case," he added.
The UCI, who received the documents from the Slovenian cycling federation in mid-August, is due to finalise its decision soon.
"We are studying the file and will decide on September 17 if we'll appeal or accept the decision," UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani confirmed to Cyclingnews.
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