Cycling: Valverde handed two-year doping ban

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Alejandro Valverde's hold on the No 1 spot in cycling's world rankings came to an abrupt end yesterday when he was banned from the sport for two years following a doping offence dating from 2006.

After a legal battle lasting nearly four years, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that the Spaniard would be stripped of all his wins from 1 January 2010. CAS said there was evidence a DNA sample linked Valverde to a blood bag, believed to contain the banned red blood-cell booster EPO, discovered in 2006.

Since then cycling's governing body, the UCI, and Spanish legal authorities have argued over whether the bag could be used to bar him.

Meanwhile Valverde continued to rack up the wins, including a stage in the Tour de France and overall victory in the Tour of Spain 2009. Twice, at the end of 2007 and 2008, UCI officials were forced to swallow hard and give Valverde the trophy traditionally awarded to the No 1-ranked rider in the world.

Only hours before he was barred for two years, Valverde had been confirmed by the UCI as retaining the top spot in the world classification. But by yesterday afternoon, another press release confirmed he had been suspended.