The Court of Arbitration for Sport has handed Alejandro Valverde a two-year suspension, effective starting January 1, 2010, for his involvement in the Operación Puerto doping scheme.
The court upheld the request of the UCI and World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) against the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC), but also refused to nullify Valverde's results prior to the start of the suspension.
"The CAS considered that there was no evidence that any of the results obtained by Mr. Valverde prior to 1 January 2010 was through doping infraction and decided that the appellants’ request to annul those results should be denied," a press release from the CAS stated.
The decision allows Valverde to keep his victories in the 2009 Vuelta a España, Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré and Clasica San Sebastian among others even though the races took place after the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) matched samples of his blood taken during the 2008 Tour de France to the evidence from the Operación Puerto case.
CONI imposed a ban on Valverde from racing in Italy from May 11, 2009-2011. The CAS upheld that verdict in March, but had a separate hearing to decide whether the ban could be made world-wide based upon the UCI and WADA arguments.
Operación Puerto dates back to 2004, when the Spanish authorities first began investigating doping operations in Madrid. The case came to a head when in May, 2006, the Civil Guard raided the clinic of Eufemiano Fuentes and seized over a hundred bags of blood, doping products and other evidence of performance enhancing procedures.
The UCI requested in August, 2007 that the RFEC open disciplinary hearings against Valverde when the rider was linked to a bag of blood labelled '18' which also contained the banned blood booster EPO.
The presence of EPO and the DNA evidence gathered by the CONI linking Valverde to the bag was deemed sufficient by the CAS to ban Valverde world-wide based upon the "use or attempted use by a rider of a prohibited substance or prohibited method".
Since Valverde has raced throughout the entire period of the lengthy CAS appeal until his victory in the Tour de Romandie on May 2, 2010, his ban is effectively only 19 months, although the decision will likely lead the UCI to strip Valverde of his overall victory in the Tour de Romandie and his second place in Paris-Nice as well as see him stripped of his position as UCI World Rankings leader.