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Zaballa sanctioned for nine months

Retired Spanish rider linked to Puerto sanctioned nine months for 2010 ephedra case

Tino Zaballa — a Spanish rider without a contract this season — has been handed down a nine-month ban by the UCI after testing positive for ephedrine during the 2010 Vuelta a Asturias.

UCI officials confirmed to VeloNews that Zaballa, who raced last year with Miche, had tested positive for traces of the banned stimulant.

Zaballa won that year’s Asturias tour as well as a stage. Those results, however, will be stripped in the wake of the doping ban.

Zaballa, now 33, retired this season after being unable to secure a contract. The date of the ban, however, will run through late June of this year.

Zaballa’s biggest victory was the 2005 Clásica San Sebastián, which he won with Saunier Duval. Previously, he rode for Kelme-Costa Blanca and moved to Caisse d’Epargne in 2006.

His other big wins included a stage each at the 2004 Vuelta a España and the 2001 Tour de l’Avenir, as well as the overall title at the 2007 Euskal Bizikleta.

His name was leaked in the Spanish media for alleged links to the Operación Puerto blood doping ring in 2006, however, and he never was able to land at another major team despite having no firm evidence against his name.

Zaballa rode for small Portuguese teams from 2008 through 2010, capped by his Asturias win with CC Loulé-Louletano. Last year, he rode for Miche-Guerciotti, with whom he won a stage and finished second overall at the Asturias tour.

There was no immediate response from Zaballa and a link to his personal website showed that the page is inactive.