Valverde on the comeback

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Valverde racing

An alert reader has spotted that Alejandro Valverde is building up for his comeback to the pro peloton. The photo above comes from newspaper La Opinión de Granada. The Spaniard has been suspended for his involvement in the blood doping network uncovered by Operation Puerto but is training hard for his return with Movistar next year (note the team issue Pinarello with Campagnolo’s electronic gears and the Nalini clothing).

Not content with training hard, he’s been taking part in organised rides. Perhaps mindful of his suspension in the amateur ride above from July he didn’t have a race number… but started with the others and went on to cross the finish line first.

But he’s sailing close to the wind. The rules are quite clear, he shouldn’t be riding.

320 Prohibition against Participation during Ineligibility: No License-Holder who has been declared Ineligible may, during the period of Ineligibility, participate in any capacity in an Event or activity (other than authorized anti-doping education or rehabilitation programs) authorized, recognized or organized by UCI, a Continental Confederation, a National Federation, or any other Signatory, Signatory’s member organization, or a club or other member organization of any Continental Confederation or National Federation of UCI or another Signatory or Signatory’s member organization, or in Competitions authorized or organized by any professional league or any international or national level Event organization.

It’s not the crime of the century and he might well be trying to enjoy a ride for the fun of it – like Jan Ullrich. But it’s worth pointing out that a suspended rider is blocked from almost every form of organised riding. Breaking the UCI’s anti-doping rules during suspension isn’t the best start to a comeback.

One thing is sure, he’ll ride with Movistar once his suspension formally ends. He’s already been training with riders on the squad and on the day of the ride in question above he took a moment to salute the late Xavi Tondo.

Euan August 23, 2011 at 1:33 pm

He has also been photographed at a sportive in Movistar kit and you’ll notice he is riding a Movistar Dogma. Not sure if that is CampyTechLab Super Record though…

Ankush August 23, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Suspended for doping and this guy had the cheek to ride in an organized event. As he was not wearing a number, one can’t prosecute him for participation but it goes onto show the collusion between the organizer and Movistar. I’m not really against his comeback but he should at least respect the sport by not riding at events.

ChrisO August 23, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Good to see he’s wearing a Livestrong wristband though.

Not sure who comes off worse in that equation…

Starr August 23, 2011 at 2:29 pm

One thing is for sure, Valverde knows how to win.
And that once again, will be his m.o. in 2012.
Tactics and class. The perfect combo.

HGJohn August 23, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Class??? Any class he had as a rider was totally destroyed by the tactics and delays involved in trying to avoid justice. His lack of respect for the sport and its fans is breathtaking.

Matt August 23, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Cheating != Class

Any way the UCI can extend his ban for another rule breach?

Dan August 23, 2011 at 3:33 pm

It pisses me off the Movistar just doesn’t give a damn that Valverde was a doper. They give Valverde team equipment, the let him train with the team, and they can’t wait to get him back. It is telling that at a time when cycling in Germany has largely died off because of doping, and High Road couldn’t find a sponsor probably due in part because of the cloud of doping, that this Spanish company is so happy to get convicted doper Valverde back.

Businesses worry about their bottom line, and they wouldn’t be sponsoring a cycling team if they thought a doping scandal would hurt them. That just tells me that the Spanish don’t really care about doping, but we already knew that given the reaction in Spain to the whole Contador/Clenbuterol story. The Spanish attitude towards doping is doing damage to the sport.

Larry T. August 23, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Yes Dan, it seems to be like Americans and baseball or Americans and BigTex. They mostly don’t care about doping, I’m sad to say. It’s the old “just win baby!” mentality. The roots of the Movistar team run deep into doping culture – remember Delgado’s tainted Tour victory in 1988? But “Perico” is well-loved in Spain as is “Il Pistolero”….and doesn’t the doc at the center of the Puerto scandal still have a license to practice “medicine”? And what about the attitude of the Luxembourg federation? They don’t seem to be rushing around to find out what the euro 7K Schleck sent the gynecologist was for…”training advice” seems to be enough for them. Cleaning up pro cycling is a long, tough, slog.

Mick August 23, 2011 at 4:32 pm

@Larry T… Oh but the Luxembourg federation did do an (exhaustive, so it seems) investigation (tongue firmly planted in cheek)…and deemed a suspension was in order…off season for (it may have been?) 2 months…LOL
Frank is teflon coated…maybe that was what the 7K euro was for (?) Teflon application.
Fuentes has a string of doping busts yet still manages to retain his med licence…
I tried to get “training advice” from my wife’s gynecologist…all he gave me for advice was to try Canesten…at least it didn’t cost 7K…

Jack August 23, 2011 at 4:45 pm

I’ll look out for him on my next CTC ride.

Uli August 23, 2011 at 5:05 pm

On the same note: I found myself sitting across from Ricco at breakfast on July 24 in Urbino/Italy just before the start of GF Straducale. Ricco was there with Team Maggi and rode with the leaders but bagged it half way in the horrendous weather (pouring rain and 5C at the top of the Apeninnes in the midst of July). He’s also been at GF 9Colli earlier in the year which lead to major uproar given that 9Colli is part of the FiveStarsLeague. The Straducale organizer told me that he first said Ricco should stay away but finally allowed him to join if he doesn’t interfere with the race. Few people noticed Ricco’s presence so it didn’t do anything for publicity (good or bad).

Dave H August 23, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Let em all dope, set limits as to amounts, They are doing it now anyways with doctors helping them to not go overboard and fail tests. Negative press is gone.

The reality is doping has been going on for eons, the fans didn’t care, the teams didn’t care, heck the sponsors didn’t care, the racing was fast, furious, and exciting. Now you have opportunistic journalists trying to “break” the next doping story. Doping is hear to stay, in whatever new form there is whether it is phramaceutical, genetic, etc. Where there is big money to be made in sport, there will be doping.

grolby August 23, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Yes, Dave; if you let them dope but set limits, no one is going to break those rules. Give me a break.

I too find it a bit distressing that Movistar is so publicly and unashamedly supporting Valverde before his suspension ends. Set up a contract to ride when the suspension is over, sure, but providing him with kit and gear is pretty questionable.

hamncheeze August 23, 2011 at 7:28 pm

No one should be surprised. It is obvious that almost all of Spain has laissez-faire attitude towards doping, hence the pics of Valverde being interviewed like a star before a Fondo in front of his adoring public. Couple that with the Spanish fed’s handling of Valverde and Contador and it is clear that Spain is playing the sport with a different interpretation of the rules.

It frustrates me that a team like Movistar seems content to sit back and wait for their “No. 1″ to return. They let LL Sanchez go to Rabobank, and yes they tragically lost Tondo and almost lost Soler. But the underlying message from both the management and sponsor is that they want to live in and rely on the past, rather than move forward and compete in a “new” version of pro cycling.

The Inner Ring August 23, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Interesting Uli, thanks.

Careful on the double-standard accusations guys, as whilst it is valid… most countries seem to do it.

jza August 23, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Racing during a suspension is grounds for an extension, whether it is sanctioned or not. But I believe the national federation would have to enforce it………….aaahhhhhh, Spain.

Dan August 23, 2011 at 11:30 pm

“Careful on the double-standard accusations guys, as whilst it is valid… most countries seem to do it.”

True enough. The things that stick out in my mind about Spain are
– Movistar’s attitude that Valverde’s only sin was getting caught.
– The Prime Minister of Spain intervening in the handling of Contador’s case.
– The comparison between France and Spain on the leaked UCI doping suspicion index.
– Some Italian cycling bigwig, I can’t remember who, complaining about Spain’s attitude towards doping.

As Larry T says, “Yes Dan, it seems to be like Americans and baseball or Americans and BigTex. They mostly don’t care about doping, I’m sad to say.”

I believe the baseball players union has fought off blood testing of their athletes which pretty much says all you need to know about doping in baseball. I think with Americans it is the love of fairy tales more than the old “just win baby!” mentality. Americans are genuinely outraged by doping scandals when they happen but the big time sports are smart enough to capitalize on our naiveté by basically not looking for doping thus keeping it out of the news. I can’t even count the number of times people that love baseball or american football have teased me about how pro cycling is full of dopers.

RobertBB August 24, 2011 at 3:01 am

I don’t follow, what’s so difficult about baseball as a sport that requires doping? Every time I happen to see baseball on the TV, I’m surprised at how out of shape the “athletes” are. Most of them look like they should be working at Walmart.

Dave August 24, 2011 at 8:47 am

What sort of event was this? Sounds like a sportive?

Martin W August 24, 2011 at 12:03 pm

@RobertBB: your question may well have been rhetorical but all the same: it’s about hitting power, not speed, so it’s things like HGH and anabolic steroids. They aren’t going to make you look like an “athlete” in a pro cycling sense. Here’s Barry Bonds before and after: http://jerrybrice.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/roids_bonds.jpeg

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