Cycling: Heras ban leaves career in ruins

The career of Roberto Heras was in ruins yesterday after a B test confirmed a positive reading for the banned drug EPO.

Heras will now be stripped of his fourth, record-breaking title in the Tour of Spain, sacked from his team Liberty Seguros, and banned from racing for a further two years. At 31, a comeback is unlikely.

The Spaniard, who has insisted that he is innocent and that the test is not reliable, said he would continue to fight his case in court.

Delays in the analysis of the second B test - which confirms whether an initial positive reading for a banned substance is valid - had briefly raised hopes on Heras's part that he would be cleared.

Instead, the Spaniard has the dubious honour of being the first winner of a major Tour - one of cycling's showpiece events - to be declared positive for EPO.

The positive test of one of the country's best-known sportsmen will reinforce the Spanish government's resolve to introduce tough new anti-doping laws and put an end to what the sport minister, Jaime Lissavetzky, has described as "a reputation for excessive tolerance".

As for the Tour of Spain, already in serious difficulties due to falling audience shares and previous doping scandals, Heras's sporting demise is nothing short of disastrous.