Valverde did everything wrong

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Valverde Piti

I wish I didn’t have to write this. Alejandro Valverde has yet to race in 2012 but is already pedalling some bold claims. The outrageous display of denial by at a Movistar team presentation yesterday can’t go unmentioned. He told the press:

“I haven’t done anything wrong. I’ve always respected the law, my conscience is clean”

For the record, remember he was banned by the Italian Olympic authority CONI in 2009 and then tried to appeal this with the Court of Arbitration for Sport and lost. Then both the UCI and WADA successfully got the ban extended worldwide for 2010 and 2011 via the CAS.

CONI, CAS, UCI + WADA, CAS – enough acronyms to fill a bowl of alphabet soup – all said he was storing blood with the infamous Dr Fuentes under the codename “Piti”, the name of his German shepherd dog. Valverde called this an injustice and tried a further appeal to the Swiss courts but this was promptly rejected. Fortunately he stopped before going to the European Court of Human Rights.

Cynically he could “manage” this story today and without making an apology or admission of guilt, try the “let’s not look back” approach. However making statements like “not doing anything wrong” is provocation after all the evidence and hearings. It risks sending a message that he thinks premeditated blood doping isn’t wrong.

Summary
He’s back and we’ll see how he performs in 2012, he’s a contender for a wide variety of races, from classics to grand tours. Then again, after time out many returning riders need time to get back in to the racing, see fellow Puertisto Ivan Basso.

But his media performances don’t look too strong. He risks being a laughing stock and press conferences could become bear-pit style baiting exercises. The bold denials of wrongdoing just reheat this stale story to boiling point when he should try and put a lid on this.

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{ 35 comments }

rode_ridder January 5, 2012 at 9:44 am

thx for expressing my feelings about him. With Valverde saying this I hope he doesn’t win big anymore.

Ankush January 5, 2012 at 9:55 am

I hope the ‘clean’ riders in the peloton provide rough shoulders during the races and give him few cycling lessons. Even his 3,000 situps a day won’t get him a big win this time. People like Mosqueira, Valverde who continue to deny any wrongdoing is the weed which needs to be removed from cycling.

Javi Polo January 5, 2012 at 9:55 am

It risks sending a message that he thinks premeditated blood doping isn’t wrong.

Valverde turned pro with the Kelme team… during the Puerto investigation it was known that in fact Eufemiano Fuentes was the doctor for the team, we even saw its doping calendars. I think that message is what Valverde himself has been receiving during his whole life as an athlete.

Champs January 5, 2012 at 9:59 am

The rulebook doesn’t reward anybody for coming clean or showing remorse.

Larry T. January 5, 2012 at 10:25 am

There was some whining elsewhere about Spanish cycling being “in crisis”. I would say crap like is (helped certainly by the worldwide economic crisis, especially in Spain) part of the reason. Perhaps the circle is being completed on a corrupt national federation along with directors, doctors, etc. The entire Spanish barrel looks pretty rotten these days (as the Italian one did awhile back) and maybe the lack of sponsorship interest in Spanish teams is a reflection? The entire Fuentes mess needs to be fully investigated while the sanctioning should be taken away from national federations and handed over to some international unit – though probably NOT the UCI based on their handling of these issues!

TotheBillyoh January 5, 2012 at 10:39 am

I suspect there are fundamental cultural differences at play here. The famous academic and author on cross cultural issues, Dutchman, Fons Trompenaars posits that different nationalities respond differently, in a measurable manner.

To illustrate he asks you to imagine that you are riding in a car one evening, driven by a friend. You notice the car is traveling at 30 miles an hour in a 15-mph speed zone … and then the car strikes a pedestrian. The weeks that follow are a nightmare. Your friend is arrested. As the only witness, you are called to testify. Your friend’s lawyer asks you to say the car was not speeding. You know your testimony could help your friend go to jail — or stay out of it. Under oath, however, you feel a compulsion to tell the truth. What do you say?

The Swiss, the Americans, and the Canadians are the most eager to tell the truth, even if it means sending their friends to jail. At a level deeper than conscious choice, they tend to believe in the value of principles that apply to everyone equally, and they want to see those principles enforced fairly, even at their own expense.

At the other end of the spectrum are the “particularist” cultures like China, Russia, Korea, Venezuela, and East Germany, where people are primarily loyal to their individual relationships, and feel that loyalty carries more moral weight than any abstract principle.

The Spanish, French and Italians tend to “side with the friend”, at the expense of the universal good.

Perhaps as a Spaniard Valverde has simply taken the latter position? And we will all judge him based upon our cultural conditioning.

The world is a wondrous place.

Owen January 5, 2012 at 10:46 am

Sorry to be so blunt, but his lack of contrition makes me very angry and I wish him nothing but ill.
Everyone deserves a second chance, but only if they admit their mistakes.

Javi Polo January 5, 2012 at 10:57 am

Good point @TotheBillyoh, I also think there might be some cultural side to this story (BTW, I’m Spanish and would choose to protect my friend, I think).

Now that I read the CyclingNews story, there’s another quote from Valverde they didn’t posted but that I specially dislike:

I’ve already complied with what they wanted (spanish link here)

To me, it sounds as if Valverde has taken for granted that he can ride. He doesn’t seem to agree with the idea that “They” make the rules, and that he can’t break them if he wants to ride.

Xavi Tondo RIP January 5, 2012 at 11:26 am

Spanish cycling – and Spanish sport in general- is completely bound up in serving the interests of those involved. The media, fans, authorities etc are reluctant to indulge in any kind of behaviour that might jeopardise those interests. Sporting success is good for the politicians as it brings a sense of self-worth to a country that still has a huge inferiority complex with regards to its European neighbours. Mainstream journalists are also reluctant to rock the boat because they would be placing their own careers at risk because the media is not interested in asking awkward questions, rather its role is to stoke the flames of conspiracy to explain away the numerous doping scandals that have enveloped Spanish cycling. Suspicion of authority is a national pastime therefore the press has an easy task in painting the French, UCI, WADA etc as the bad guys. Valverde thinks he has done nothing wrong because he believes, like the majority of his countrymen, that those who tell him he has done something wrong are simply involved in some sort of orchestrated witch hunt designed to bring down Spanish cycling for reasons of jealousy, politics etc.

In the Spanish press to question this state of affairs, to ask Valverde an awkward question to which nodbody wants to know the answer, would be akin to signing your own suicide note. Omerta rules inside and outside the peloton.

Raouligan January 5, 2012 at 11:38 am

I’m pleased he’s back he’s a quality rider and will push Gilbert hard in the classics.

Kudos for him to holding out rather than acquiescing like Basso did, after all none of the blood that was supposed to be found from athletes from other sports was used for banning purposes.

Finding bags of blood indicates possible intention to dope but not actual doping, in my eyes at least until it can be proven that he used that blood the he’s innocent.

Kudos for him sticking to his guns the situation is fishy, but if Valverde says he never used the taken blood then he’s not a doper.

He’s one of my favourite riders panache flair and speed

The Inner Ring January 5, 2012 at 11:45 am

I didn’t want to write this piece partly because I’d upset some Spanish readers. But if things have been bad in Spain, they have also taken some steps to improve things. For example doping is a crime and let’s not forget Operation Puerto was launched by the Spanish police and judiciary and it took down an entire pro cycling team with it. I’m always a touch wary of accusations via nationality.

Raouligan: note the blood bag contained EPO, so if he was planning to dope but did not, there is proof of EPO use, already enough to ban him (see the “via the CAS” hyperlink above for the details).

Ian January 5, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Question: Out of the 484 riders how many have been convicted and banned for doping offenses. Also does someone have a list of who they are and what team they are riding for. As I gear up to follow the season I don’t want to spend my time supporting someone who I then find out is a banned rider.

Jerome January 5, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Valverde could have said ‘no comment’ he’s served his penalty and should not have to explain anything… my 2 cents

Tom January 5, 2012 at 12:43 pm

@Ian
http://www.dopeology.org has a lot of info

Ian January 5, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Thanks Tom

Larry T. January 5, 2012 at 2:31 pm

The Green Bullet is simply reflecting the reasons doping is so tough to eradicate – the idea that “everyone else is doing it, why not me?” He, just like Marco Pantani and others, feel that they are not doing anything differently than their competitors, they just had the bad luck to get caught at it while so many others have, and continue to, get away with doping. The first issue is getting away from the “you must dope to get to the top” idea by proving there are those who have arrived there without doping. But there’s money to be made providing dope and transfusions even if the benefits are purely psychological. Take sanctioning away from national federations and make the penalties for licensed medical folks caught doping athletes the permanent revocation of license to practice. Team personnel (trainers, managers, etc.) involved in doping need to be banned for life from the sport. Offer the riders caught a choice – rat out EVERYONE and take a 2-4 year vacation from the sport OR keep your “dignity” and leave the sport for good. Valv-piti would simply be gone for good now if this were the case. If there was ever a guy who warranted extra visits by the dope squad and serious monitoring of his bio passport, he should be the poster-boy!

SvelteSoutherner January 5, 2012 at 4:42 pm

The Valverde case proves my irrationality as a fan. His skillset and bravado were a delight to watch for many years. Now I will find it hard not to root for him again despite his despicable denials.

@sciencetwitt January 5, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Bear baiting? I don’t think so. Who is going to ask him those tough questions and keep asking till they get an answer? They will be accused of ruining the sport and being anti-Spanish. It won’t be long before Valverde only issues comments via twitter. He has served his time but sanctions were developed so that a convicted person would in the given time relative to the severity of the offense reform their ways and accept their wrong doing. Valverde clearly isn’t going down that route and feels wrong done by when it’s clear he was doping. So saying he has done his time is an empty statement. Sentences should be longer and/or a program should be put in place so that the athletes address their errors. So far looking at recent cases the process is a mess.

Big Mikey January 5, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Hopefully, 2012 will yield less of this moral outrage on the part of fans with regard to doping. It’s like criticizing powerful men for sleeping with hot women who throw themselves at them; it’s easy to say you’d be strong when you’re not in the situation. Further, it’s not that long ago that PEDs were being used by nearly the entire peleton. The naivete in these comments is palpable.

What’s Valverde supposed to say, he did it? What possible rationale could he have for doing so; so some keyboard jockey can applaud him for being forthright and honest? He’s got much more to lose by being honest than he does by coming clean. And I suspect he’s acting according to his cultural norms (nod to TotheBillyoh), and certainly per the norms of the famous and powerful.

Simma January 5, 2012 at 5:51 pm

one spaniard who will love valverde?? contador! lol

he will race in yet another season while waiting for a final ruling on his case… skewing yet more numbers if he loses like you would expect following the letter of the law. (i wonder if scarponi is stocked up on champagne for the 2 big wins he will get when contador has his results stripped?)

Twisted Spoke January 5, 2012 at 5:58 pm

With his astonishing “I did nothing wrong” statement, Valverde has now reached the doping elite, where hypocrisy knows no bounds. I never thought I’d see another rider match Vino’s outrageous lies but Valverde has just accomplished that feat.

Alex Murray - Chasing Wheels Cycling Blog January 5, 2012 at 6:42 pm

And let’s be blunt about it: as far as I can see, at no point in any of the hearings or legal cases has Valverde contested that it is his blood in those bags or that it matched a sample taken by Italian authorities. His entire defence has been about the jurisdiction of Italian authorities and subsequently UCI and others to ratify the ban. So he can say ” I did no wrong” all he likes, but there is a long and documented trail which shows he has never presented this argument before any body with jurisdiction to rule.

Rider Council January 5, 2012 at 11:30 pm

His attitude is not surprising and actually you can see from his comments that behind the scenes it’s a completely different world. It’s not at all positive for the future. However…….is this true?

“I suggested that they compare it [his DNA – ed.] in a neutral laboratory, but they refused this in Italy, and for that they sanctioned me because they compared my DNA in that country without my presence,” Valverde said. “They said that the plasma bag was mine, but they wouldn’t even do that to a criminal. None of what they did was legal.

….. because it sounds like it got personal at some point with people directly involved. It might explain his attitude.

Kevin G January 6, 2012 at 12:00 am

Thank you for expressing what I suspect is the view a great many cycling fans. It is depressing that the season has to start with Valverde’s comments and with outcome of the Contador saga pending. The peleton has moved on from the mess that was Operation Puerto and riders such as Millar have shown that it is possible to return from doping and make a positive contribution to the debate. Valverde must have been hiding behind the Pyrenees for the past two years if he doesn’t realise that his views are no longer in line with his fellow professionals, the majority of whom have realised that if they don’t clean their act up there will be no professional cycling as we know it today.

James January 6, 2012 at 12:20 am

my 2 cents…he’s an arrogant puke. I have never liked him and never will. I hope he crashes big time in his first race so he misses the entire season.
how’s that for feelings?

slim jim January 6, 2012 at 12:44 am

@SvelteSoutherner

I have the same feelings about Vino. Before he got busted he was my favourite rider. If he’d shown something resembling contrition for what the did e.g. Millar. Then I could probably like him again.

I hate him but I loved the way he raced.

NB has anyone else noticed that nearly every rider that gets busted got caught “just that one time they decided to dope”

And don’t get me started on Basso’s “intent to dope” – either admit fault and spill your guts or put up a wall and deny deny deny. Don’t insult my intelligence by picking some bullsh*t middle ground.

The Inner Ring January 6, 2012 at 7:57 am

Basso is an interesting case, for his talk of “attempts” so soon after a dominant ride to win the Giro. But on the other hand his come back was carefully managed. He worked with Aldo Sassi who advised him to use an open door policy, journalists could visit to watch him training, blood values were published online and so on. This doesn’t make him a saint but it’s a step to getting out of the hole, no?

Raouligan January 6, 2012 at 8:12 am

Ah I hadn’t realised there’d been EPO in the bags although whilst blood was out of his care, I’m guessing could be a defence?

Also wasn’t a neutral DNA test refused by the authorities, you’d have thought that would have been a lincher.

I really think if doping sanction is to have any sort of effectiveness it has to appear entirely impartial, the UCI has too much investment to be involved really.

St David of Millar I find heartily depressing would he have come clean without the raid whilst he was winning I sincerely doubt it, why bother being contrite about it it’s taking advantage in the workplace he got caught has had some punishment and is back at work. It’s a calculated work place risk for these guys that they’re obviously thinking about , no matter how little some fans dislike it.

In terms of dopin and publicity the UCI perhaps ned t look at how Tennis does things (this is tongue in cheek).

The bile about Valverde and Ricco and Vino et al makes me smile afte all wasn’t Merckx allowed a positive to slip because of who he was?

karsten January 6, 2012 at 3:58 pm

last thing i remember Valverde doing was being helped up Ventoux by Contador to stop Cadel winning the Dauphine. Now they have more in common (to be confirmed) don’t you think Valvarde will be a great help for Contador in this years tour.

Tim January 6, 2012 at 4:20 pm

I feel some counter-comments are in place here. OK, apparently most readers here don’t like the guy anyway. BUT:
- Valverde doped (or at least these bags date back to) his early days with Kelme, when he was still a rookie. Since then he’s never used EPO. If he had, he would have been caught.
- The way one comes clean with his past is purely personal. Maybe Valverde felt himself victim of the situation he was in during his rookie period. He wouldn’t be the first example. For the rest, it’s irrelevant, he has served his suspension. Moreover, he has been banned from Italian racing for at least 2,5 years, which is more than the average doper
- Finally, Valverde was (and I guess, still is) immensely popular in the peloton. So there won’t be anyone ‘accidentally’ pushing him off the road. Most competitors in the Tour Down Under will treat him like they’ve always done. Mark my words.

dc January 7, 2012 at 7:48 am

@ Tim – “Since then he’s never used EPO. If he had, he would have been caught.” Huh? Where you been the last few years?? eg – http://www.velonation.com/News/ID/3948/Thomas-Frei-used-micro-doses-and-water-to-avoid-EPO-detection.aspx

And FWIW, I’d suggest to you that relevancy is “purely personal.”

Tim January 7, 2012 at 11:56 am

@ dc
My point of course is that potential micro-dosing could apply to Valverde just as well as to any other rider. Presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

CGradeCyclist January 9, 2012 at 4:36 am

Well, he’s ‘done his time’ with the ban, so I don’t see any reason he can’t ride. However – that doesn’t mean I will be supporting him…

Its one thing to have been punished appropriately, and return toteh sport. Its totally another to expect the fans’ support…

Steve Edwards January 10, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Everyone’s pretty quick to jump on the “of course Valverde doped” bandwagon but there’s something that rarely gets discussed, which is why his results never fluctuated. In fact, one could argue that he became a better rider in the years he was under investigation before he was banned. So if he did, indeed, dope back in the Puerto days he either A) continued to dope while under investigation or B) doping doesn’t work. I have a hard time buying A as it would seem almost suicidal (or perhaps sociopathic) as he was under insane scrutiny and B clearly is not true. This puts him in a unique place as most other convicted (and even accused) dopers highly variable performance records. Guys like Hamilton and Landis went from champions to pack fodder and even long-term superstars, like Basso, who came back strong were never quite a dominant as they were pre-suspension. But Valverde’s physical performance never seemed to vary in the slightest, which makes his case far more insteresting than anyone else and, in my mind, more believable. Has anyone but me noticed this? I talked with Joe Papp about this, who’d also noticed it but could not explain it.

Larry T. January 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Kind of premature to make this decision as what’s to say The Green Bullet wasn’t just doing the same old-same old for most of his pre-sanction career? Do you think the guy went from doper to squeeky clean? And if so, when did this occur? When the Puerto bust first happened, when he was linked as Valv-Piti, when the Italians first claimed they had the goods on him? I think the only thing one can say for sure is he’ll be a) much more careful and b) under much more scrutiny NOW after his sanction has been served out. From this point on we’ll see if he’s anywhere near the rider he once was and perhaps one year from now a reasonable decision can be made about pre or post sanction performances from this unrepentant cheater.

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