Spanish Supreme court backs Heras’ reclaiming of 2005 Vuelta a España title
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Friday, December 21, 2012

Spanish Supreme court backs Heras’ reclaiming of 2005 Vuelta a España title

by Shane Stokes at 1:25 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
Despite positive test for EPO, Spaniard named again as winner of race

Vuelta a EspanaSeven years after he won, then lost the 2005 Vuelta a España, Roberto Heras has secured that title again via a case upheld in the Spanish Supreme Court.

The former professional took a first legal victory in June of last year when a civil court, the Contencioso Administrativo del Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Castilla y León, sided with him in his complaint about what he said were procedural errors in his case.

Rather than go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, Heras took that civil court action and claimed that the testers both mishandled his samples and also violated lab protocol.

Amongst his claims were that the samples took 40 hours to be delivered rather than 24, arrived at room temperature rather than being refrigerated, and were transported by people who were not identified.

Heras’ legal team also claimed that the ‘A’ and ‘B’ samples were analysed by the same people and that they were aware of the name of the person they were testing, thus violating the requirements for anonymity.

When the Contencioso Administrativo del Tribunal Superior de Justicia backed him, the Spanish Cycling Federation RFEC and the state attorney appealed to the Supreme Court. However it said today said that there are no grounds to appeal against the first judgement.

The news will be interpreted as a blow by some sporting bodies, given that it directly challenges the standard anti-doping appeals process. Athletes have tended to fight their case before the Court of Arbitration for Sport rather than taking to the civil courts.

This summer, Lance Armstrong, who was a former team-mate of Heras on the US Postal Service squad, tried to overturn USADA’s case against him in a Texas court. However the judge Sam Sparks rejected his move.

In doing so, he stated that athletes agreed to be bound by sporting rules and the arbitration process when they took out their racing licences. He also said that due process was provided to the athlete through the structures in place.

Spain appears to see things differently, and today’s ruling could in theory open up an avenue to other appeals before the civil courts.

Heras’ positive test came after an improbable second place in the penultimate day time trial in the 2005 Vuelta a España. Although he was a flyweight climber who seldom rode strongly against the clock, he finished just fractions of a second behind the day’s winner Ruben Plaza.

In doing so, he beat recognised time trial specialists such as Denis Menchov, who was later awarded the Vuelta title after Heras’ positive test for EPO was confirmed.

The Russian won the race in 2005 and 2007, but if today’s ruling turns out to be the final word on the matter, he has now lost the first of those victories.

The RFEC, the UCI and WADA are yet to comment on today’s news.


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