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Valverde confirmed for Movistar return

Valverde had maintained close links to Movistar throughout his ban and was expected to welcomed back to the team.

Alejandro Valverde will return to the peloton next season in a Movistar jersey.

Team officials announced Friday that the Spanish rider, who was caught up in the Operación Puerto doping ring, will be officially introduced as a team member for 2012 in a press conference Tuesday in Madrid.

Valverde, 31, is serving a two-year ban after being connected with DNA evidence to blood bags that were linked to the Puerto doping ring organized by notorious doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.

Valverde evaded a ban early on in the wake of the Puerto investigation after a Spanish court prevented the UCI from forcing sporting bans against riders alleged to be linked to the ring. Valverde was initially linked to the scandal by Fuentes’ code name system, which included alleged references to Valverde, with “Piti” and the No. 18 linked to him.

Later, Italian officials from CONI used blood samples taken during the 2009 Tour de France stage to Pinerolo and matched them blood bags seized during police raids dating back to the 2006 Puerto investigation.

An initial ban was only for Italian competition. When the Spanish federation refused to open a disciplinary hearing, the UCI and WADA challenged the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to have the ban applied in all international competition.

CAS agreed and was banned for two years starting January 1, 2010, meaning that all his results from the first half of the 2010 season were annulled.

Valverde has maintained his innocence throughout the process and denies any wrongdoing.

Throughout his ban, Valverde has continued training near his home base of Murcia, Spain. VeloNews spoke to Valverde during this year’s Vuelta a Murcia.

“I feel strong and I hope to come back to my best level when I return to racing next year,” Valverde said earlier this year. “I believe I can be as strong as before.”

Before his ban, Valverde won the 2009 Vuelta a España, Fleche Wallone in 2006, Liege-Bastogne-Liege twice and the Dauphiné twice.

Valverde had maintained close links to Movistar throughout his ban and was expected to welcomed back to the team.

With Valverde’s return, Movistar will boast 27 riders for the 2012 season, with seven new names.

Other new riders include Vladimir Karpets (Katusha), Jonathan Castroviejo (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Jose Herrada and Javier Moreno (both from Caja Rural), Giovanni Visconti (Farnese-Vini) and Nairo Quintana (Colombia es Pasion).