Alejandro Valverde lost the latest round of his lengthy attempt to overturn Italian anti-doping sanctions on Friday after Switzerland’s highest court rejected his arguments as “unfounded.”
Valverde had asked the Swiss Federal Tribunal to overturn a decision by the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport rejecting his appeal against a two year ban in 2009 from racing on Italian territory, on procedural grounds.
While CAS is the sporting world’s highest court, its decisions can be appealed by filing a challenge in Switzerland’s court system. Friday’s ruling, however, underscored how difficult those challenges can be.
“The current appeal must be rejected,” the ruling said as it dismissed Valverde’s major arguments as “unfounded and lacking a basis in fact.”
His lawyers had notably challenged the impartiality of one of the three arbitrators and the entire panel’s access to evidence from the Spanish Operación Puerto doping investigation.
Valverde, winner of the 2009 Vuelta a España is also one of the strongest competitors in hilly single-day classics, had been banned from racing in Italy since May 2009.
In 2008, Italian authorities took a blood sample from the Spaniard at the Tour de France when it passed through the country that year. DNA testing showed it matched the contents of one of the blood bags seized in the Puerto raids of 2006.
Further analysis showed that the blood from the Puerto case also showed evidence of EPO use. As a result, the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) took the unusual step of imposing a ban of the Spanish rider that applied to races within Italy. The ban kept Valverde from competing in the 2009 Tour de France, which briefly crossed into Italy. Instead, Valverde opted to ride in the Vuelta, which he won.
Following that win, a CAS arbitration panel handed Valverde a two-year worldwide ban. The ruling did not, however, negate earlier results, including the Vuelta victory.
Valverde’s lawyers have also asked the Swiss Tribunal to review the worldwide suspension, although Friday’s ruling would indicate that his chances of success in that appeal are remote.