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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Cycling News Flash, February 19, 2009

Edited by Sue George

French suspend Schumacher for two years

By Susan Westemeyer

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner)
Photo ©: AFP
(Click for larger image)

The French anti-doping agency (AFLD) suspended German rider Stefan Schumacher for two years after testing positive for CERA, a new generation of EPO, during the Tour de France. Schumacher confirmed the suspension Thursday evening, calling the decision "a shock" and the process a "farce".

The 27-year-old, who last rode for Team Gerolsteiner, said in a statement that, "I did not dope."

He added that there can only be one reaction to this "unprecedented investigation and unbelievable verdict: I have told my attorney to file an appeal of the investigatory practices and the scandalous verdict with the Conseil d'Etat, the highest French court of appeals."

Schumacher said that he was sure that the court would "prove his innocence".

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Earlier in the day, the Belgian and Dutch media had reported that the UCI had ordered the suspension, but Schumacher's lawyer, Michael Lehner, called the story a "fake".

On Thursday afternoon, UCI spokesperson Enrico Carpani told Cyclingnews, "I can confirm UCI didn't communicate at all on this so far. We are still waiting in fact for the AFLD decision."

Valverde under criminal investigation

By Shane Stokes

Alejandro Valverde arrived in Rome, Italy on Thursday to appear before the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) only to be informed he was now also under criminal investigation. The Spaniard was informed that the separate probe had been opened when he arrived at Rome's Olympic Stadium for his hearing with CONI's anti-doping prosecutor.

Valverde refused to speak to reporters following the hearing. His lawyer, Federico Cecconi, said that his client attended the meeting to 'clarify that he had no part' in the doping scandal.

Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) anti-doping prosecutor Ettore Torri announced on Thursday that the organisation possessed DNA proof plus additional evidence that Valverde was involved in the Operación Puerto doping scandal.

"We can say with certitude that the blood in bag number 18 belongs to Valverde," Torri said according to AFP, referring to seizures made by Spanish police at a Madrid laboratory in May 2006. He confirmed claims earlier made by Italian media that DNA comparisons between this and a blood sample taken from Valverde during last year's Tour de France matched, proving his involvement.

Torri spoke at a press conference held after the doping hearing held today in Rome's Olympic Stadium. He said that CONI had the authority to rule on the case, rejecting assertions to the contrary by the Spanish judge investigating Operación Puerto. CONI took Valverde's blood sample on the second rest day of the Tour de France in Cuneo, Italy.

"We are confident that we are qualified to deal with this case and that we also have the jurisdiction to deal with foreign athletes," he said. "Valverde's case is identical to that of [Ivan] Basso." CONI The suspended the Italian rider in June 2007.

"We have documents referring to Valverde both for sums paid to [Doctor Eufemiano] Fuentes and for the substances [purchased]. However, these documents require interpretation. For now, though, we haven't examined the possibility of a precautionary suspension for Valverde. His lawyers have two weeks to prepare the defence case."

He added that Valverde declined to speak during the hearing, and was unlikely to be called again. However he suggested that other sportsmen might be summonsed to Rome.

"If one refuses to answer there's no point in returning," he said. "There's another 90 bags of blood and not just those of cyclists."

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