Alejandro Valverde denied that he had any involvement with the Operación Puerto blood doping ring when he gave evidence to the Court of Arbitration for Sport yesterday (Wednesday). Talking to the court via telephone from Australia where he is preparing for the Tour Down Under, Valverde insisted he had no direct link with Eufemiano Fuentes, the doctor at the centre of the Puerto investigation. "He was the brother of my [Kelme team] doctor, and that's all," Valverde is reported by La Gazzetta Dello Sport to have told the CAS hearing taking place in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Valverde has appealed to CAS against a two-year ban from racing on Italian territory that the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) has imposed on him for what they insist was his involvement in Puerto. CONI's case is based around a blood bag they obtained from the Puerto investigation labeled Val.(piti), a code name allegedly based on the name of Valverde's dog. However, Valverde denied that he had ever had a dog called Piti.
That assertion was countered by Quique Iglesias, the editor of Spanish sports daily AS. Iglesias stated that AS had published a story titled 'A Day with Valverde' in which there was a picture of the rider playing with an Alsatian dog called Piti.
Valverde's former Kelme team-mate Jesús Manzano also appeared before the CAS hearing. He affirmed that all the statements he had made when he blew the whistle on doping practices within the Kelme team in March 2006 were true. "Drugs were a way of life," he said of the Kelme team. He insisted that Valverde was one of the riders who was involved in doping at that team and that he had seen Valverde doping.
Caisse d'Epargne team managers José Miguel Echávarri and Eusebio Unzué plus long-time team rider José Luis Arrieta also appeared to affirm their belief in Valverde's honesty since he joined their team in the 2005 season.
The hearing is due to finish today (Thursday). CAS have indicated that they will announce their decision in three weeks.
Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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