UCI cannot act on Valverde
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Saturday, September 26, 2009

UCI cannot act on Valverde

by Agence France-Presse at 11:34 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 

World cycling chief Pat McQuaid said the International Cycling Union (UCI) could do nothing to stop Alejandro Valverde from racing the world championships road race on Sunday.

Valverde is currently serving a two-year ban in Italy handed down by the country's Olympic Committee (CONI).

But despite admitting he believed Valverde was implicated in the Operation Puerto scandal that erupted in May 2006, McQuaid said he would not extend that ban worldwide until the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) rules on two appeals later this year.

"We make the rules and we have to follow the rules, and for the moment Alejandro Valverde can race tomorrow," UCI chief McQuaid said Saturday.

"If he wins the race I will give him the rainbow jersey."

Valverde's participation at the competition is tinged with controversy, if CONI is to be believed.

CONI allege that a blood sample taken from Valverde during last year's Tour after it raced through Italy matches DNA from a blood bag seized during the Operation Puerto doping affair.

McQuaid also believes that to be the case, but said the UCI would not move to ban the Spaniard, who last week won the Tour of Spain, until CAS's decisions.

CAS is currently studying two appeals.

The first is from Valverde protesting against his CONI ban, which meant he could not race this year's Tour de France because it passed through the country.

The other is a joint appeal from the UCI and the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) asking CAS to force the Spanish cycling federation, which is supposed to act on any misconduct by their affiliated riders, to open a case against Valverde.

Complicating matters are two things.

The UCI cannot act against Valverde until the Spanish federation open a case against their rider, and CONI has not provided the UCI with the documents which, it alleges, prove that Valverde was a drugs cheat from Operation Puerto.

McQuaid said: "We've been dealing with CONI for a very long time and it's true they're not the easiest body to deal with.

"(But) we don't have all the documents (from CONI), and we don't know precisely on what basis they have decided to ban Valverde, so we're not in a position to make any decision regarding him."

However the Irishman, who was elected for a new four-year term on Friday, said: "We've always stated that blood bag number 18 (from Operation Puerto) belonged to Valverde.

"But I don't want to give my personal opinion on the matter."

CONI president Giovanni Petrucci hit back at McQuaid, claiming he has sent all relevant documents to the UCI.

Petrucci also said in a statement: "I agree we're not easy to deal with because we take our job seriously, and and apply the rules of WADA, and Italian law, with extreme rigour."

Valverde, ironically, will start Sunday's race with bib number 18.

He has been protesting his innocence ever since being linked, belatedly, to Operation Puerto - which notably led to Italy's top star at the time, Ivan Basso, serving a two-year ban from the sport.

But it has been rumoured that the Italians are acting to remove Valverde from the peloton as revenge for Basso.

UCI insiders indicated to AFP, under condition of anonymity, that they do not believe the Spaniard, considered one of the most talented one-day and one-week stage racers of his generation, has not been doping since the affair.

News of a doping ban for Valverde, however, would likely do no favours to Madrid's bid to host the 2016 Olympics.

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