By Agence France Presse
UCI president Pat McQuaid said sport’s international governing body can do nothing to stop Alejandro Valverde from racing the world championships road race on Sunday.
Valverde is currently serving a two-year ban in Italy handed down by the country’s Olympic Committee (CONI).
Despite admitting he believed Valverde was involved in the Operación Puerto doping scandal that erupted in Spain in May 2006, McQuaid said he would not extend that ban worldwide until the International Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) rules on two appeals later this year.
“We make the rules and we have to follow the rules, and for the moment Alejandro Valverde can race tomorrow,” McQuaid said in a press conference at the site of the world road race. “If he wins the race I will give him the rainbow jersey.”
Valverde’s participation at the competition is tinged with controversy, if CONI is to be believed.
CONI investigators allege that a blood sample, taken from Valverde during last year’s Tour de France after it raced through Italy, matches DNA from a blood bag seized in the Puerto case.
McQuaid said he believes Italian officials reached the proper conclusion, but said the UCI would not move to ban the Spaniard, who last week won the Vuelta a España, until CAS’s decisions.
CAS is currently reviewing two cases in the matter.
The first is from Valverde protesting against his CONI ban, which meant he could not race this year’s Tour de France because it passed through Italy.
The other is a joint appeal from the UCI and the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) asking CAS to force the Spanish cycling federation, which is supposed to act on any misconduct by their affiliated riders, to open a case against Valverde.
Complicating matters are two major problems, noted McQuaid.
Under its own rules, the UCI cannot act against Valverde until the Spanish federation open a case against a Spanish rider. Furthermore, the Italians have not provided the UCI with the documents which, CONI alleges, prove that Valverde was a drugs cheat from Operation Puerto.
“We’ve been dealing with CONI for a very long time and it’s true they’re not the easiest body to deal with,” he said. “We don’t have all the documents (from CONI), and we don’t know precisely on what basis they have decided to ban Valverde, so we’re not in a position to make any decision regarding him.”
McQuaid, who was reelected to a second four-year term on Friday, said he’s convinced that there is a strong case against Valverde.
“We’ve always stated that blood bag number 18 (in the Puerto case) belonged to Valverde,” he said. “But I don’t want to give my personal opinion on the matter.”
CONI president Giovanni Petrucci hit back at McQuaid, claiming he has sent all relevant documents to the UCI.
“I agree we’re no easy to deal with because we take our job seriously, and and apply the rules of WADA, and Italian law, with extreme rigor,” Petrucci said in a statement issued in response to McQuaid’s comments.
Valverde, who will coincidentally line up at the start of Sunday’s road race sporting race number 18, has been protesting his innocence ever since being linked to the Puerto case.
Italy’s top star at the time, Ivan Basso, served a two-year ban from the sport after DNA tests linked him to blood seized in the case. Spanish supporters have argued that the Italians are acting to remove Valverde from the peloton as revenge for Basso.