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Valverde charged in Italy over doping

SPANISH cyclist Alejandro Valverde should receive a two-year ban for his alleged involvement in Operation Puerto, the Italian Olympic Committee's anti-doping prosecutor recommended yesterday.

The case will now head to CONI's in-house anti-doping court, with a hearing likely in May.

In February, CONI prosecutor Ettore Torri confronted Valverde with DNA evidence and documents that allegedly show he was in contact with a doctor at the center of the blood doping case in Spain.

The Caisse d'Epargne rider maintained his innocence during questioning by Torri.

CONI's case against Valverde is based on an alleged DNA match between samples taken during an Italian leg of last year's Tour de France and a blood bag seized in a 2006 raid on the doctor's blood doping clinic in Madrid.

CONI contends that documents found in the raid also link Valverde to the doctor, Eufemiano Fuentes. The documents indicate the amounts the rider paid and what substances were used in the blood doping process, Torri said after questioning Valverde in Milan.

Valverde has argued that Italian sports authorities have no jurisdiction on the case, and Spanish authorities have also questioned the use of blood found in the raid as evidence by the Italian committee.

The Italians counter that they are within their rights to prosecute Valverde and that evidence had been collected according to the rules.

More than 50 cyclists were originally linked to the Puerto doping ring, including top riders like Ivan Basso of Italy - who served a two-year ban.

After initially being implicated in the investigation, Valverde was banned by the International Cycling Union from competing in the 2007 World Road Racing Championships.

The UCI had called on the Spanish cycling federation to open proceedings against him, but it declined to do so, and eventually Valverde was cleared by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to compete at the championships.

In 2008, the 28-year-old Valverde won the UCI ProTour and the opening stage of the Tour de France. Last week, he won two stages in the Vuelta of Castilla and Leon.


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