The Italian Olympic Committee barred Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde from competing in Italy for two years yesterday.
The Italian authorities say they have DNA evidence that links Valverde to blood bags seized in the Operacion Puerto investigation into blood-doping three years ago.
With the Tour de France entering Italy, albeit briefly, this July, the situation is complicated. Valverde is certain to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
We explain the story so far?
Why were the Italians investigating Alejandro Valverde, a Spanish rider? What?s it got to do with them?
Doping has been a criminal offence in Italy since 2000. The Valverde investigation was opened by the Italian anti-doping investigators and the police in Rome. The Italian police have the jurisdiction to investigate offences committed on foreign soil if there is an impact on events in Italy. The Italian view is that they want to determine whether Valverde committed a doping offence. Bear in mind that ?attempting to dope? and ?preparing to dope? are also offences, as Ivan Basso can testify.
Why are the Spanish objecting?
The Spanish contest just about every aspect of this case. For a start, in Spain the law prohibits evidence from a police investigation from being used for a sporting investigation. In Italy you can, so the Italians say they are within their rights to use police evidence to pursue Valverde even though Operacion Puerto has not gone to trial and Valverde has not been part of the Spanish investigation.
So what has happened?
Italian police applied for access to the blood bags seized in the 2006 raids on the Madrid laboratory run by Dr Eufamiano Fuentes. Because of a European police accord, and because it was a criminal not sporting investigation, the Italians were given access to the bags, which were being stored in Barcelona at the time. The Italians say they tested the DNA in blood bag number 18, the one they believed came from Valverde.
And what have they matched that to?
When the Tour de France visited Cuneo in Italy last year, anti-doping testers targeted Valverde as part of this investigation. The Italians claim that they have a DNA match between samples from blood bag number 18, held in Spain, and the test conducted on Valverde in Italy in July 2008. On that basis CONI, the Italian Olympic Committee, has investigated Valverde and the Italian anti-doping tribunal found him guilty. Valverde has been banned from competing in Italy for two years.
Does that mean he?ll miss the Tour de France?
Stage 16 enters Italy. If Valverde were to start the Tour, it?s likely the Italian police could be waiting at the border to stop him. That would be very unwelcome publicity for the Tour. Of course the Tour organisers could change the stage route, like the Giro organisers did this year to avoid going into France. If the Tour didn?t enter Italy and if Valverde?s ban is not extended to the rest of the world before the Tour, in theory he could ride. Valverde rides for a team sponsored by a French bank, so pressure may be brought to bear.
What?s the UCI?s stance?
The UCI has requested the full text of the judgement from the Italians but has the power to extend a ban applying to one country across the world. The Italians have 30 days to make the paperwork available.
Will Valverde appeal?
He has said he will take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which has the last word.
Valverde banned from competing in Italy for two years
Valverde not present at Italian hearing
Valverde complains about Italians
Comment: End this Valverde Farce
Italians set Valverde disciplinary hearing for May 11
Alejandro Valverde: Rider Profile
April 1, 2009: Valverde set to be banned from racing in Italy
March 25, 2009: Valverde wins stage 3 of Castilla y Leon
February 12, 2009: Valverde fights back over Puerto accusations
July 5, 2008: Is Valverde’s win a good thing for the Tour de France?
January 11, 2008: Valverde back in anti-doping spotlight (again)
September 25, 2007: Valverde cleared by Puerto judge
September 18, 2007: UCI says it has new information on Valverde
August 30, 2007: Valverde expected to hand over DNA sample
August 30, 2007: Valverde banned from Worlds