THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published — Sunday 23 December 2012
Last update 22 December 2012 10:54 pm
BARCELONA: Spain’s Supreme Court ruled on Friday that Roberto Heras — a former teammate of Lance Armstrong — must be reinstated as the winner of the 2005 Spanish Vuelta after it upheld a decision to clear him of a doping ban that had stripped him of the title.
Heras had previously won the Vuelta in 2000, 2003 and 2004 before he tested positive for the banned blood-booster EPO in the second-to-last stage of the 2005 race.
The Spanish cycling federation responded by banning Heras for two years and annulling his win. The trophy was given to Russian rider Denis Menchov instead.
Heras retired after serving the ban, pointing to a lack of quality offers from elite racing teams.
In June 2011, a lower court ruled overturned the ban due to irregularities in the investigation.
On Friday, Spain’s highest court rejected an appeal brought by the Spanish cycling federation and government lawyers against last year’s decision that retroactively cleared Heras of the ban.
Federation spokesman Luis Roman told The Associated Press that “the federation will need to study the decision” but that the most likely result would be for Heras to be reinstated as the winner.
The 38-year-old Heras wrote on Twitter: “Many thanks to all of you who have supported me during these interminable seven years.” Heras’ four Vuelta wins will be a record for the event.
Heras, who was known as a strong climber in mountain stages, was a teammate of Armstrong on US Postal from 2001-2003 and helped him dominate the Tour de France during that period.
Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour titles and banned from cycling from life since a US Anti-Doping Agency report issued in October implicated him and his teams in a widespread drugs program.
In an interview with the AP in 2010, Heras refused to comment on allegations concerning Armstrong and the use of doping substances.
“I only have good things to say about Lance,” he said.
Friday’s decision by the Supreme Court coincided with the World Anti-Doping Agency suspending its accredited lab in Madrid from carrying out doping tests for three months.
The anti-doping body did not give a reason for the decision, other than saying it did not “meet ISL (International Standard for Laboratories) requirements.” In 2006, Spanish police implicated more than 50 cyclists in the Operation Puerto doping investigation.