Valverde banned from Italy for two years

Puerto DNA match is enough for Italian Olympic Committee

The anti-doping tribunal of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) on Monday suspended Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde from competing on Italian soil for two years, the Ansa news agency announced.

Valverde, who was not present at the hearing, was punished for his role in the Operation Puerto blood doping scandal.

The 29-year-old Spaniard can therefore not compete in any race that takes place in Italian territory, ruling him out of the next Tour de France, the 16th stage of which passes through Italy's Val D'Aosta region on July 21.

On April 1, CONI's anti-doping prosecutor Ettore Torri called for Valverde to be suspended for "violating the code of the World Anti-doping Agency (WADA)".

The World Anti-Doping Agency welcomed the ban as "another brick in the all in the Puerto affair," the body's president John Fahey said in a conference call late Monday.

In February Torri claimed that a blood sample in the bag number 18 taken from the raided laboratory of the infamous doctor Eufemiano Fuentes was that of Valverde.

"We are in possession of documents that refer to Valverde concerning not just money paid to Fuentes but also various substances," Torri said back then.

Valverde, who rides for Caisse d'Epargne, subsequently announced on May 6 that he was launching a lawsuit against Torri.

"Mr Torri acts, in a repeatedly obstinate manner, with total disregard for the Spanish legal authorities, refusing to submit to the decision of the Madrid judge that forbids CONI from using criminal evidence against athletes," Valverde said in a statement.

Valverde has the backing of the Spanish justice system which has made it clear it is against any procedure brought by Italian authorities.

The Spaniard is one of the top cyclists in the world having twice won the prestigious Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic in Belgium, while also finishing runner-up in the Tour of Spain in 2006, the same year he won the first of his two UCI Pro Tour title.

© AFP 2009

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