Jesús Manzano, a former Kelme rider who nearly died from a botched blood transfusion during the 2003 Tour, continues to proclaim his certainty that Alejandro Valverde has doped. Manzano is sort of Spain's Greg LeMond, a retired rider carrying on a lonely quest to expose doping. Like LeMond, he has little to gain personally from his efforts, giving him a certain credibility, but also like LeMond, he puts that credibility to the test at times. Like today:
Valverde was racing on Kelme. This appears to be as close as Manzano comes to having any actual evidence. Valverde was on the team for which Operacion Puerto Enemy #1 Eufemiano Fuentes served as team doctor, and in 2003 Manzano personally witnessed the trafficking of doping products through team staff. Manzano's efforts to get the truth out have been heroic, but if he has no knowledge of doping by Valverde -- last year's Pro Tour champion -- he needs to stop pretending otherwise.
The Valverde case is critical: the sport is busy clearing out a lot of the older guard, raised on EPO in the 90s, while the younger crop of champions (Boonen, Cunego, Ballan, Cancellara, the Schlecks, etc.) goes largely untouched by scandal. The hope that the U-27s represent a cleaner future is one we'd love to cling to... so if Valverde were to be exposed as a doper, it would be arguably a bigger blow to the sport than the Landis case.
Valverde's past membership at Kelme at a time when the team was awash in EPO is circumstantial evidence, enough for Manzano and us to raise our eyebrows about his status then. But it's not hard evidence, he left Kelme before ever riding the Tour, and there is as yet no evidence linking him to any doping during his Caisse d'Epargne evolution. It's worth asking what happened, but if Manzano doesn't actually know the answer, he shouldn't pretend otherwise.
- Le Tour is wandering up the slippery slope, wiping Bjarne Riis' 1996 Tour win from the press guide. No word on whether they also removed Richard Virenque's podium spots from 1996 and 1997 from the guide, and all of the above can still be found on the Historique section of the Tour website. I understand and appreciate the Tour's vigilance, but they can't seem to make a statement that doesn't look curiously selective.
- In Italy, the oddly-nicknamed "Oil for Drugs" investigation is still circling around Eddy Mazzoleni, coming off his Giro podium spot. Fortunately, Danilo DiLuca has been cleared of any involvement.
- In Germany, T-Mobile is woodshedding Serguei Honchar after an internal test revealed suspicious blood contents. He was left out of the Giro, is now being removed from the Tour roster, and won't be invited back next year.
Hopefully that's it for doping issues this week.