The Spaniard also says he does not like being asked about the Operation Puerto doping scandal

Newly crowned World Champion Alejandro Valverde said he believes cycling ‘is in great health’ when asked if the sport is clean.

The 38-year-old won his first World Championship in Innsbruck, Austria last month after besting his rivals in a four-man sprint.

Speaking with Spanish newspaper Marca, Valverde said he does not like to be questioned about the Operation Puerto doping raids, which resulted in the Spaniard being suspended for two years.

When asked by Marca if it hurts to be asked about Puerto, Valverde said: “It does not hurt, but I do not like to be asked, even you now.

“It’s [journalists], first and foremost who give weight to it. Anyone is free to write what they want but in giving weight to it you play the game.”

Then when asked if he thought cycling was a model of clean sport, he added: “It is very clear that cycling has great health today.”

The Operation Puerto scandal hit the headlines again last week after a Spanish court permitted the release of blood bags to the Italian Olympic committee.

Names of athletes linked to the case could finally be revealed after the court’s decision.

More than 200 blood bags were seized during the police operation in anti-doping raids in 2006.

Big names riders were implicated in the scandal, including Valverde, Tyler Hamilton, Ivan Basso and Jan Ulrich.

In 2010, Valverde was eventually banned from the sport for two years after his DNA was matched to a blood bag seized in Puerto raids.

The names of the 26 men and three women linked to Puerto through the blood bags have not been published due to fear of lawsuits from those involved.

Since his return to the sport, the Spaniard has ridden from strength to strength, winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2015 and 2017, and La Flèche Wallonne in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

This season, Valverde won overall at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, the Abu Dhabi Tour, the Volta a Catalunya. and La Route d’Occitanie.

After riding in podium position for most of the Vuelta a España, Valverde finished fifth overall before taking his first rainbow jersey in Austria two weeks later.