Former Ag2r-La Mondiale rider Tadej Valjavec is nervously awaiting the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) regarding the appeal made by the International Cycling Union (UCI) to have the rider sanctioned for irregularities in his biological passport. Valjavec was sidelined by the UCI in May of last year but was subsequently cleared of doping charges by the National Anti-Doping Commission of Slovenia in July. The UCI then appealed the Slovenian body’s decision to CAS.
Like Franco Pellizotti, who also fell foul of the biological passport system, Valjavec has always denied the accusation that any irregularities in his blood values were a result of doping. He had a hearing at CAS on January 20, and February 16 was the deadline for closing arguments by legal representatives of both parties.
Anne Gripper, the former head of UCI anti-doping department, told Cyclingnews last week that she would be “very, very disappointed if CAS upheld the decision on either of those [cases of Valjavec and Pellizotti]” and Valjavec has reacted to her comments.
“In every hearing, they systematically presented a graphical review of blood samples (reticulocyte and haemoglobin) that even the UCI admits to be incorrect, but they only bluntly say they are sorry,” Valjavec said. “The damage caused by such a graph is enormous, as such a graph, which only shows exceeding values, has a much greater visual impact on the arbitrators than all other facts.”
The Slovenian rider also claims that the UCI’s case is built on hypothesis and deductions from his results rather than on scientific proof. In particular, Valjavec is aggrieved that his results from the Tour de Romandie have formed part of the UCI’s appeal.
“The craziest thing I have heard from the UCI during the proceedings is that they are also trying to charge me based on my results from the races in which I raced with stomach problems,” Valjavec said. “A year after an ulcer was discovered, there are still traces of blood in my stomach. The UCI claims it is impossible that I could have achieved such terrific results at the Tour de Romandie last year! Placing 28th [ed. - 29th] is not a good result for me, since I have finished in the top-10.
“Anyway, the people who decide these things don’t really have a clue. They don’t know the first thing about them. Since their charge against me failed on all accounts, they started to build their case on results from races."
Valjavec insists that his results at the Tour de Romandie were not out of the ordinary, in spite of his stomach problems.
“Even gaps behind the winner became part of the charge! I left for the Tour de Romandie with the highest hopes and expectations. In the view of the UCI, my gap of 10 seconds over 2 kilometres in a prologue, where I placed around 90th, was not wide enough, given that I was racing sick,” said the 33-year-old Valjavec..
“I achieved such a 'top result' with an ulcer, and to them this is unfathomable. But to me it is not, as such a race can be completed with a gun-shot wound to the leg. It makes me wonder how [Slovenian cross-country skier] Petra Majdič could have won a bronze medal at the Olympics with her ribs broken.”
Valjavec runs a hotel with a hypoxic chamber in Pokljuka and hasn’t ruled out a comeback to racing should CAS confirm the decision of the Slovenian anti-doping agency.