By Andrew Hood
Now all Roberto Heras can do is wait.
On Monday in Madrid, technicians conducted the counter-analysis on urine samples taken from the four-time Vuelta a España champion in the penultimate stage of this year’s race. The anti-doping test will confirm or clear Heras of charges he took the banned blood booster EPO en route to winning the 2005 title.
On the advice of his lawyer, Heras waived his right to witness the procedure. In his place were two observers acting on his behalf: José María Buxeda, a member of his legal team, and Italian chemist Giuseppe Pierraccini, a specialist in the EPO test from the University of Florence.
Buxeda told the Spanish daily Marca he is optimistic Heras will demonstrate his innocence.
“I hope the counter-analysis will confirm the innocence of Roberto Heras,” Buxeda said. “Everything went perfect and according to plan. The process will be long and we have to hope there will be a definitive conclusion.”
The test was conducted by technicians at the Consejo Superior de Deportes, part of the Spanish sports ministry. Results could be released as soon as Wednesday, officials said.
If the test comes back negative, Heras’s legacy and reputation will be saved. If positive, Heras would be stripped of his 2005 Vuelta victory and be slapped with a two-year racing ban. He could face an additional two-year ban as part of the ProTour’s ethics code, though the standard has yet to be tested in practice.
Heras’s attorneys have already said they will challenge the case to the Court of Arbitration in Sport in Switzerland if he fails the test.
Without the victory, Heras would lose his record of four overall victories. His other victories in 2000, 2003 and 2004 would remain on the books, leaving him tied with Swiss great Tony Rominger with three wins each.
Denis Menchov (Rabobank) – the blond Russian who won two stages, held the leader’s jersey for more than a week and finished second at 4:36 back – would be named the winner. Third-placed Carlos Sastre (CSC), who finished 18 seconds slower than Menchov, would move into second. Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) would bounce into third to give him his second consecutive Vuelta podium.
There was no word from Heras ahead of Monday’s test, but he has calmly and deliberately professed his innocence. Spanish cycling fans can only hope he’s proven right.
Voigt faces shoulder surgery
Jens Voigt, the attacking German who snagged the yellow jersey in this year’s Tour de France, will undergo surgery after injuring his right shoulder in a weekend cyclo-cross race in his hometown of Dassow.
Voigt strained three ligaments in his right shoulder, and exams Monday confirmed the Team CSC rider will require an operation, scheduled for Tuesday at the Martin Luther Clinic in Berlin.
“I can’t avoid the surgery, but the doctors told me it’s not that complicated, so in less than a week I can start using my home trainer,” Voigt said on the team’s web page. “I can’t remember the last time I was injured, so obviously it’s frustrating to have to change my schedule a bit. On the other hand, I’m just happy it’s nothing serious and that it won’t affect my preparations for next season.”
In 2005, Voigt scored eight wins and grabbed the yellow jersey at the Tour de France in July. In stage nine, Voigt and former teammate Christophe Moreau (Crédit Agricole) were chasing in vain to retrieve the attacking Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) as they raced into Mulhouse. The Dane held on for the stage win, but Voigt snagged the yellow jersey. Voigt forfeited the lead three days later after falling ill and finishing outside the time limit.
Capelle appeal denied
Belgian Ludovic Capelle (Landbouwkrediet-Colnago), who was issued an 18-month racing ban for testing positive for the banned blood-booster EPO, lost an appeal before Belgian racing authorities.
The Belgian daily La Deniere Heure reported that the Flanders appeal commission refused to overturn the racing ban, dating back to a positive taken during a June kermesse.
“It’s too bad about the decision, but my position remains the same,” said Capelle, who’s insisting on his innocence. “It’s all I can say now. It’s in the hands of the lawyers.”
The former Belgian national champion might challenge the ruling in civil court based on the ruling from the appeal commission.