Alejandro Valverde doping case blocked?

And Contador says he will be equal to Armstrong at Tour

Spanish court seeks to block Valverde doping case

A court in Spain moved Wednesday to block a case by the Italian Olympic Committee into doping allegations against Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde, judicial sources said.

Valverde has been summoned to appear before the committee, CONI, at Rome's Olympic Stadium on Thursday to face charges related to the 'Operation Puerto' doping scandal which erupted in Spain in 2006.

The summons is the result of a blood and urine sample given by the Caisse d'Epargne rider last year during an Italian leg of the Tour de France.

Although the sample did not fail any tests, the DNA matched those of other samples seized by Spanish police from the laboratory of Dr Eufemiano Fuentes, the central figure in the Puerto scandal.

But the Madrid High Court Wednesday declared CONI's procedure legally invalid since it said the committee, which is part of Italy's culture ministry, had no right to demand the seized blood samples from Spain. It also ruled that the samples in the Puerto affair could not be used as evidence in another case and by another judicial body.

Valverde has long come under suspicion of doping after being implicated in the Puerto affair although nothing came of Spanish investigations into his alleged involvement.

Valverde is a one-day specialist who is a twice Pro Tour champion and has three times finished on the podium at the World Championships and was second in the 2006 Tour of Spain.

Contador: Armstrong and I will be equal

Spain's Alberto Contador said Wednesday that he would be "equal" to Astana team-mate Lance Armstrong during the next Tour de France and stressed that they both deserved "the status of leader".

"I think that we will be equal," Contador said, shortly before the start of the first stage of the Tour of the Algarve (February 18-22). "He, for what he's done in the past, and me, for what I've done over the past two years, both deserve the status of leader at Astana.

"That way, we both start from the same position going into the next Tour."

Seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong, 37, made his return to competition last month after three-and-a-half years out of the sport, with the declared ambition of winning an eighth Tour de France.

Contador is likely to be one of his main rivals, having won the Tour de France in 2007 and the Tour of Italy and the Tour of Spain in 2008.

© AFP 2009...

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