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A decade-long court battle involving disqualified 2005 Vuelta a España winner Roberto Heras took a new twist in Spanish courts this month, Spanish media reported.
Despite testing positive for EPO and ceding his 2005 Vuelta victory to Russian Denis Menchov Heras keeps battling on in court. Why? His lawyers claim anti-doping officials did not follow proper protocol when testing Heras’s urine samples in that year’s Vuelta.
Heras, now 41, tested positive for EPO after finishing second in a long time trial in the Vuelta’s penultimate stage, securing him what would have been a record fourth win. Heras later tested positive for rhEPO (recombinant EPO), and was stripped of his title, and banned for two years.
His lawyers claimed that testers did not follow outlined protocol, by not storing the urine samples at the correct temperature and having the same lab worker test both A and B samples.
A former teammate of Lance Armstrong on U.S. Postal Service, Heras did not race again in the elite peloton, and has since participated in marathon mountain bike races. He took up the legal fight in Spain’s civil court rather than challenging the disciplinary ruling in the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
In 2012, Heras won a court battle that overruled the disqualification, and re-assigned Heras’s Vuelta victory. Heras’s legal team took up another court battle, and sued Spain’s anti-doping authorities for damages.
This month, a Spanish federal court ruled again in his favor, allowing him nearly $1 million in compensation from the Spanish government that Heras claims he lost in possible earnings when he was forced to serve a two-year ban following his EPO disqualification.
Spanish anti-doping officials are expected to appeal the ruling, which could drag out the process for up to an additional two years.
Enrique Bastida, Spain’s top anti-doping official, said the ruling was ridiculous, telling the Spanish daily MARCA: “His analysis isn’t going to change. Heras doped, with EPO. With all due respect to the courts, doping is not a judicial question, but an ethical one. He will always have to carry the burden of knowing he cheated.”