Alejandro Valverde may be Cycling's next major star to fall into the pit of Operacion Puerto suspicion. Via CN, as the Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport delves deeper into Ivan Basso's case, they are claiming to have uncovered evidence that both Basso and Valverde were among the sources of the 99 blood bags found with Fuentes, and in Valverde's case traces of EPO were found. In Basso's case, no trace of EPO was discovered, but transfusions of blood are themselves a violation of the sport's rules.
Obviously Valverde has been suggested before as someone of interest to the investigation, based on the cryptic mention of Valv:Piti in Fuentes' notes, corresponding to Valverde and his dog. Whether La Gazzetta's efforts convert Valverde from a guy with a cloud over him to a full-on OP persona non-grata remains to be seen. But this week, expect the issue to progress rapidly and for ASO to start putting pressure on Caisse d'Epargne to keep Valverde out of the Tour. This is huge.
Update [2007-5-7 9:30:52 by chris]: After sleeping on it, it occurs to me that this all shows how horribly stupid ASO are. To repeat one of my winter rants, you can't use "under suspicion" as a legal standard. Due process exists because there isn't any workable alternative. So now a newspaper has placed Valverde (back) under suspicion. Is he out? What if the Podium Cafe says we don't like the looks of that Pereiro guy... is he out? Or does Dick Pound have to pronounce you guilty in an interview first?
In America and presumably a few other civilized nations, if they can't get nine or so people locked in a secret room to agree you should be hauled into court, then they have to leave you alone. For any sort of skilled prosecutor armed with a modicum of evidence, that's not a lot of process... but at least it's something we can get our minds around. At the Tour, "under suspicion" is going to be whatever Christian Prudhomme says it is, and it's a short, slippery ride from a newspaper investigation to "let's throw out all the furriners". But then, as Les Woodland reports in CN, being an asshole has long been part of Le Tour's director's job description.