Roberto Heras’ 2005 Vuelta positive overturned by Spanish court
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Friday, June 24, 2011

Roberto Heras’ 2005 Vuelta positive overturned by Spanish court

by Ben Atkins at 12:36 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España, Doping
 
Spanish rider could reclaim his race victory

roberto herasRoberto Heras’ positive test from the 2005 Vuelta a España has been overturned by the High Court of Justice of Castilla y León, according to Marca. The 37-year-old, who was riding for the Liberty Seguros-Würth team, won the race but subsequent tests on his race samples, in November of that year, were positive for recombinant EPO. Heras was stripped of his title and banned for two years; the race awarded to second place rider Denis Menchov.

Heras appealed at the time that his samples were mishandled, and that there were irregularities in the testing process, but was unsuccessful. Five years on, the court has now ruled in his favour.

The court ruled that Heras’ samples were, indeed, not handled correctly since they were not delivered to the lab within 24 hours. Those samples were taken from the penultimate day’s 38.9km time trial between Guadalajara and Alcala de Henares, in which he finished second. That stage was held on a Saturday and the samples were not delivered until almost 40 hours later on the following Monday, having been kept at room temperature the whole time.

The court was also critical of the fact that when the samples were reanalysed, in November 2005, Heras identity was known by the lab technicians analysing both the A- and B-samples, breaching the principle of rider confidentiality.

Heras retired from the sport as soon as his original appeal was unsuccessful and is unlikely to return to racing, since his suspension expired long ago anyway. He is however, free to claim back the 2005 Vuelta, and may even seek compensation for what he will now claim was an unlawful suspension.

Heras began his career with the Kelme-Costa Blanca team in 1997, finishing fifth in that year’s Vuelta; he finished sixth the following year, and third in 1999, as well as taking fifth in the Giro d’Italia. He rose to real prominence in the 2000 Tour de France though, as one of the few riders to worry Lance Armstrong in the mountains; he then took the first of his Vuelta victories that September.

He signed for Armstrong’s United States Postal Service team the next year and rode in support of the American in the Tour and for himself in the Vuelta. He helped Armstrong to his third, fourth and fifth Tour titles, before taking his second Vuelta in 2003. He then left the team for Liberty Seguros in 2004, wanting to ride the Tour for himself; he won the Vuelta again that year, before being disqualified from the next year’s race.

Heras has not been entirely inactive since his suspension, as he finished second in the 2008 World Brompton championships for the eponymous folding commuter bikes, before taking the title in 2009.

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