Suspended Vuelta a España champion Roberto Heras has had an initial attempt to file civil proceedings against a two-year doping ban rejected, his lawyer Jose Maria Buxeda told AFP on Monday.
The Spaniard won his fourth Vuelta last September but was later stripped of his record-breaking title after testing positive for blood-booster EPO following the penultimate stage time-trial.
Buxeda said a court had rejected a bid to start civil proceedings, arguing it was “premature,” since the government-backed Spanish Committee for Sports Discipline had till the end of May to make a decision on his appeal.
Buxeda said should the committee eventually reject the appeal Heras would again look into starting civil proceedings on the grounds of errors in the testing procedures.
The 32-year-old rider was handed a two-year suspension after aFebruary 8 hearing by the Spanish cycling federation after a test results indicated that Heras had tested positive for EPO near the end of the Vuelta, a result announced on November 8. Heras was formally fired by his Liberty Seguros team when the B-sample also came back positive on November 25.
Heras, the Vuelta winner in 2000, 2003, 2004 and 2005 had been the first four-time champion until last victory was struck from the record books. Russian Denis Menchov (Rabobank) was declared the winner of the 2005 Vuelta and was to have been formally awarded the race’s golden jersey lastweek, when Heras’scivil suit delayed the awards ceremony. Vuelta organizer, Unipublic, has not yet re-scheduled the event.
Ullrich still optimistic about Tour chances
Former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich of Germany claimed Sunday he was optimistic about arriving for this year’s event in top form despite an old knee problem flaring up last month.
The 1997 Tour winner and five-time runner-up has had to delay the start to his 2006 season after suffering a recurrence of an injury to his right knee. Some of his main rivals for victory in the sport’s blue riband event, which begins on July 1, have already demonstrated their form by winning minor races.
But Ullrich, who hopes to be back in time to compete in the Tour of Romandie from April 25-30 and then the Tour of Italy from May 6, is unconcerned.
“I am optimistic. I am very motivated to arrive at the Tour in top form,” said the 32-year-old in an interview with television channel ARD.
The T-Mobile rider was due to undergo tests this weekend to see how his injury is progressing.
“If I do not feel any more pain, I will maybe take part in the Tour of Italy,” he added.
But his preparation is already some way behind that of his principal rivals. Italian Ivan Basso won the challenging three-stage Criterium International, Kazakhstan’s Alexandre Vinokourov claimed overall victory in the Tour of Castilla and Leon and American Floyd Landis reigned in the week-long Paris-Nice.
But the German, who for the first time in seven years doesn’t have to face his nemesis Lance Armstrong after the seven-time winner’s retirement, has warned his competitors not to underestimate him.
“We are counting down to Paris and Ullrich is not yet out of the running,” Ullrich said, uncharacteristically referring to himself in the third person.