The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Tuesday announced that it has upheld a two-year suspension for doping against Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde.
The CAS "has dismissed the appeal filed by the Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde against the decision of the National Olympic Committee of Italy (CONI) suspending him for two years from all sports events organized on Italian soil," the Lausanne-based court said in a statement on its website.
"As a result, the suspension remains in place until May 10, 2011."
The International Cycling Union (UCI) welcomed the ruling and said in a statement it was determined to seek a suspension against Valverde at international level after examining the details of the CAS decision.
CONI took action after it said a blood sample taken from the rider at the Tour de France when it passed through Italy in 2008 matched DNA from a blood bag seized during the Spain's 'Operation Puerto' doping scandal that erupted in May 2006.
Valverde filed an appeal with the CAS against the decision last June.
As a result of the ban, he was unable to take part in last year's Tour de France because it briefly passed through Italy.
Valverde has protested his innocence ever since being linked to Operation Puerto.
His lawyers said in a statement on his website on Tuesday that they planned to appeal the CAS decision in a Swiss federal court. They accused one of the CAS judges of "bias" due to the fact he had previously worked for the World Anti-Doping Agency.
They also noted a ruling last year by the Madrid High Court, which declared CONI's procedure legally invalid as it said the committee, which is part of Italy's culture ministry, had no right to demand the seized blood samples from Spain.
Valverde, who won the Tour of Spain last year, finished second behind compatriot Alberto Contador last weekend in the Paris-Nice race.
The 29-year-old said he planned to continue his career whatever the outcome from the CAS, in an interview with Spain's El Pais newspaper on Monday.
"I will return to cycling and I will continue to win," he said.
© AFP 2010