Valverde doping case postponed

2009 Tour of Spain winner still under cloud from 2006

The Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) said on Monday that it had postponed a hearing into Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde's appeal against a doping ban that sidelined him from this year's Tour de France.

The hearing into the two-year suspension on Italian soil imposed by the Italian national Olympic committee (CONI) had been scheduled for November 16.

But CAS said the International Cycling Union (UCI) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had recently been allowed to join the case, delaying the procedure.

"As a consequence, all parties concerned have agreed to postpone the hearing that was initially fixed for 16 November 2009," it added. "The UCI and WADA will have the opportunity to file written submissions and a new hearing date will be fixed as soon as possible."

CONI claim a blood sample taken from the Spaniard at the Tour de France when it passed through Italy in 2008 matched DNA from a blood bag seized during the 'Operation Puerto' doping scandal that erupted in May 2006.

As a result of the ban, Valverde was unable to take part in this year's Tour because part of it briefly passed through Italy during stage 16. He subsequently won this year's Tour of Spain.

The Lausanne-based court also said that another hearing involving Valverde, this time on an appeal by the UCI and WADA seeking to force the Spanish cycling federation to open a doping case against him, was "unlikely to take place before the end of the year."

UCI chief Pat McQuaid belives that Valverde was implicated in the Operation Puerto doping scandal which erupted in May 2006.

McQuaid has said he was waiting for the CAS rulings on both appeals before he would seek to expand the Italian ban worldwide.

Valverde has protested his innocence ever since being linked, belatedly, to Operation Puerto.

© 2009 AFP

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