Beleaguered Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde will finally get his day in sport court – or make that two.
After a delay, the Court of Arbitration in Sport set court dates Tuesday for two separate cases involving the Spanish rider.
The Vuelta a España champion is fending off allegations that he was one of the top clients of Operación Puerto ring-leader Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes.
The court set aside three days, January 12-14, to hear the first case. Valverde is contesting an Italy-only two-year ban imposed by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) and requests its annulment. On the other side, CONI has joined an effort by the UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency to extend the ban to all nations.
A second case is set for March 18-21. WADA and the UCI are contesting a decision by the Spanish cycling federation not to open a disciplinary procedure against Valverde.
Both cases were postponed from late November to allow more time to prepare for the hearing.
The stakes are huge for both sides.
Valverde will be fighting for his cycling future. His legal team is challenging the Italians’ right to impose a ban on a Spanish rider and insist their client had nothing to do with the Puerto blood doping ring.
If Valverde prevails, his ban would be revoked and he could continue racing relatively unblemished.
Anti-doping authorities, however, are pushing for the Italy-only ban to be imposed worldwide.
If WADA and the UCI are successful, Valverde could be looking at a two-year ban right at the peak of his powers.
WADA and UCI officials are still pressing for wider access to the Puerto documents, still mired in the Spanish courts.
Victory in the Valverde case could help spur efforts to delve deeper into the Puerto files and perhaps impose racing bans on implicated riders.