How the Mighty Fall (Well, sort of)

Alejandro Valverde continues to race unsanctioned

At the Velominati, we do our best to stay out of negative topics like doping and try to focus on the reasons we love this sport.  But it’s impossible to ignore doping completely, and today I’m going to talk a bit about Alejandro Valverde and the Spanish Cycling Federation.

Operation Puerto broke my heart.  It tore a hole through the 2006 Tour de France, taking two of my favorite riders with it, Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso.  Michelle and I were headed to France to watch the race, and literally on our way out the door to the airport, we saw the news that Jan and Ivan had been thrown off the race, ruining our chance of witnessing the Ullrich-Basso Smackdown that was sure to come.

The investigation eventually took down both of them – and several others – but, having originated in Spain, it oddly resulted in no Spanish sanctions.  None of Spain’s champions – Valverde, Contador, Beloki, Sevilla, Mancebo – walked the plank and all of them returned to competition.  As Spain spun a web of red tape around their country, other federations investigated their stars, with Italy and Germany working the hardest to obtain evidence and trying to tie it to their riders.

Through it all, Valverde has stood out as being the most obviously implicated.  He has admitted to working with Fuentes, has admitted to owning a dog named Piti, the investigation turned up blood bags that were labeled as “Valve”, and Dr. Fuentes had his name and hotel information in his wallet when he was originally arrested with the bags of blood.  (On a side-note, what’s with those code names?  If I’m cheating and they guy helping me says, “Hey, what do you want your code name to be?”, I’m going call myself “The Whispering Shadow” or “The Incognito Mosquito” or something awesome like that.  Something to strike fear in my rival’s hearts.  I’m going to stay away from pet names like “Spot” or “Bubba”.)

Two years ago, the Italian Federation tied blood from Valverde obtained in a dope control during the 2008 Tour back to blood they’d received through their own Puerto investigation and banned him from competition on Italian soil.  Valverde and the Spainish Federation called foul, and he again managed to escape the hangman’s noose, at least temporarily.   Yesterday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that the Italian Federation was well within it’s rights to ban Valverde, opening the door for the UCI to extend the Italian ban to a world-wide ban.

Valverde and his lawyers are claiming that the CAS has no jurisdiction over the Spanish Federation, that the arbitrators are biased, and that it violated his basic human right to cheat,  but this time it seems likely that Valverde will finally fall.

And next time, pick a cooler code name.

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20 Replies to “How the Mighty Fall (Well, sort of)”

  1. “”we do our best to stay out of negative topics like doping””


  2. @Stefan
    Thanks for your comment. We’ve actually had plenty to say about doping – it’s part of cycling and therefor we have to talk about it, but talking about doping isn’t why we’re here.

    Make no mistake about it: doping has to go (or it has to be legalized), but we’ll leave the reporting and speculation of doping to the news outlets and focus on why we love cycling – we love being on a bike, we love how hard it is, the tactics, the gear; we love the history, the mythology, the races, the community.

  3. I dont care about doping and MORE, I don’t care about professional cyclists anymore, doping is part of the whole game. So when you say: you want to stay out of negative topics like doping, that’s just inconsequent. Doping is part of cycling, not only from professional cycling…could provide some good stories from my race times (I never did…) but…

    And yes, I also love cycling, but just for myself and friends…

    The other day I asked myself if cyclists are dumb and not able to learn…when I read the word “dumb” in the other post.

  4. @Stefan
    Well, I can tell you that I, for one, would love to hear your tales from the road. I agree with you that cycling is best enjoyed with good friends, but I guess I just enjoy the races too much to turn my back on the professional scene.

    I faced the same dilemma about doping and concluded that I love to watch the races; whether they’re jet-fueled or not doesn’t ultimately diminish my enthusiasm while watching (only afterwards…). Take last year’s Giro; Di Luca made that one of the most exciting races I’ve seen. Of course, he tested positive, but the spectacle was there and it was an awesome race. Take the racing in the 90’s; incredible.

    Am I part of the problem? Am I too easily sucking into the excitement? Do I ask too much of the racers? Would doping stop if I stopped watching the races? Maybe if we all did…

    Doping is complicated and I think we all contribute to the problem. But I can tell you I’d be disappointed if the Tour’s format was changed to 7 150km stages with 15 rest days.

    I’ve got a group ride coming up. Now, where’s that syringe…

  5. What’s more, the same can be said of any sport these days. Doping is/has been a huge problem in baseball, football, olypics etc. The second we start holding athletes up to being something other than human (read imperfect) we set ourselves up to caring about sex scandals with Jessica Simpson and the baby sitter.

    I happen to believe cycling is at or close to the forefront of eradicating doping. Sure, it’s gonna probably be a while but because of cycling’s long and illustrious past with doping (going back to the days of Desgrange) both in the peleton and in public perception, it’s been forced to clean itself up.

    When I talk about cycling with my non-cycling friends, the first thing they often say after “Lance Armstrong is cool”, is they’re all dopers. That’s just not true. With riders like Jens Voigt and teams like Garmin coming out with strong anti-doping statements and self-controls, things have swung in the other direction. Yea, they’ll be guys that probably always find ways to cheat but that’s quickly becoming the exception, not the rule.

    Bottom line though, I just think it’s fun. It’s fun to do, watch, read about, blog about, and be a part of the community. What someone else does or doesn’t do has no impact on my enjoyment of cycling.

  6. @Marko
    Well said. Except that part about “non-cycling friends”? I think you confused “friends” with “less Awesome lifeforms”.

    I agree, though. There will always be cheaters, but hopefully they’ll be in the minority. It seems cleaner, but that’s what we said in 2002, too. So hard to say.

  7. @Marko
    But his bike is so bad ass! I don’t like the goofy Pinarello wavy front forks but I dig the Spanish Flag paint job.

    Did someone put out a sweet new avatar? Showing Zipp wheels? New bike? Need more data.

  8. @Marko
    Sharp eye as usual, my young Padawan. And, I might add, if you are right, this violation would prove his second offense and should result in a lifetime ban.

    However, this case bears closer inspection. Rule #8 is one with many clauses, so it requires careful evaluation, and Valverde is known to be litigious so we have to make sure we have an airtight case.

    The internet is rife with photos of his bike, many of which have a red saddle above a paint scheme of the frame that has a red section of paint around the seat collar, as indicated here:

    This is not in violation of Rule #8; clause two indicates you can match handlebars/saddle to the color of the frame nearest. But, as your eagle-eye noticed, the photo shows him aboard a ride that bears a white saddle. Is it a one-off, or did he actively ride a bike with white saddle? I did some digging and found him posing with the bike.

    Strictly speaking, the saddle matches the decals on his frame, as allowed through clause three of the rule, but that clause clearly says “saddle and the bars”. It does not say “saddle OR the bars”. Guilty as charged. I’ll be contacting the UCI over this violation. I’m sure they will take great interest in this matter.

  9. @john
    I second the request for more detailed information on the sweet new ride. (I was a proud consigliere in the matter of the wheels, but he rocked himself a sweet new frame, too.) Can you imagine being in possession of this sweet ride but stuck in Northern Minnesotan Tundra thaw-out? Torture of the highest order.

    Marko: full disclosure to the group is needed.

  10. @frank


    Nothin super exciting other than the frame and wheelset. K-wing bars (44), k-force stem (130), dura ace cassette (11-25), ultegra shifters, derailleurs, brakes, and pedals, bonti (truvativ) GXP x lite campact carbon cranks, and yokozuna reaction cables (which are really sweet).

    And frank, believe me, I read thoroughly the stipulations of Rule #8 before making my post and came to the same conclusions.

    The tundra thaw is early this year so I’ve been out 4-5 times on the new steed. not nearly enough but more than any other year to this point and there’s only more to come.

  11. @john

    As far as the wavy pina forks go I sort of hear ya. Although my ALAN has a cool wave to the fork it’s not as radical as the pina fork and I think it looks cool in a more elegant less pronounced way. It’s supposed to dampen (read Huangism “increase compliance”) shock. Before I bought the BMC I was also considering a pina fp14 with the same fork but obviously decided against it. I think the BMC was the way to go.

  12. @Marko


    I dunno, guys. I like those forks. I think it’s a good design and I think those nice bends are way sexiful.

    My Alpha Q GS40 has kind of a similar look, although it’s much more understated.

    But yes – that Onda is all about Haungisms.

  13. But how is he still racing? Tomorrow is 1st May and Valv.Piti is second overall in the Tour of Romandie.

    He has no class, or style. Or hair.

  14. How many victories and podiums has this scumbag stolen? Do the time, take 2 years off and yes we will reluctantly accept valv.piti back to the ‘pelican’.

  15. @Jarvis, @granny gear

    Unbelievable. It makes me crazy that the UCI and WADA pretend to be so tough on drugs, and then they let this kind of thing just go on and on. Basso and Ullrich both paid the price, why does this this guy keep getting off? It makes me crazy, the lack of respect for the sport and the fans.

  16. @all

    Based on the facts of the case, WADA and the UCI having their collective nuts in a tuck, and the direction of this thread, I took the liberty of editing the title of this article.

  17. He could run (ride) but he couldn’t hide: Valverde FINALLY loses final appeal and is banned from riding until 31DEC2011 and all results from 01JAN2010 forward are nullified.

    About fucking time!

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