Italians call up Alejandro Valverde on doping suspicions

DNA match with Operation Puerto samples?

The Italian Olympic Committee (Coni) on Wednesday summoned Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde to face charges of doping or attempting to dope in relation to the infamous 'Operation Puerto' affair.

The Caisse D'Epargne rider has been asked to appear before Coni at Rome's Stadio Olimpico on Monday. Coni said it had also informed the rider's team and the International Cycling Union (UCI) of the summons.

The summons relates to a blood-urine sample given by Valverde on July 21, during the 2008 Tour de France after a stage in Italy.

Italian news agency Ansa reported that DNA tests on this sample matched those of blood samples seized from the laboratory of tainted doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, the central figure in the Puerto scandal. Although the sample Valverde gave during the Tour did not fail any dope tests, it is for the DNA match to the Puerto samples that Valverde has been summoned.

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.

The UCI initially banned the two-time ProTour winner from the 2007 World Championships due to this implication but he took his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) which re-instated him. He is currently the subject of an open case at CAS brought by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) after Spanish authorities washed their hands of the whole Puerto affair.

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

© AFP 2009

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