CAS to hear Valverde's appeal on ban

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Sport's highest court will hear Alejandro Valverde's appeal to overturn a doping ban that stops him from riding in the Tour de France.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said Friday it would try to schedule the case as soon as possible. The Tour begins July 4.

Valverde is challenging a two-year ban imposed last month by the Italian Olympic Committee, or CONI, that prevents him from riding in Italy. The three-week Tour heads into Italy on July 21.

The Spanish cyclist says CONI has no right to sanction him.

CONI said a blood sample taken from Valverde in last year's Tour, during a rest day in Italy, matched DNA from blood bags seized during a doping investigation in Spain called Operation Puerto.

In a separate case, Valverde has filed complaints in a Spanish court against CONI's anti-doping tribunal and the World Anti-Doping Agency.

He says both bodies have defied a Spanish judge's order that evidence obtained in Spain cannot be used against him in Italy.

The International Cycling Union, or UCI, is awaiting the CAS ruling before it decides whether to extend Valverde's ban globally.

Valverde won a previous CAS case that arose from the Puerto raid. He successfully appealed the UCI's attempt to bar him from the road race world championships in 2007.

Despite the legal turmoil, Valverde has won two stage races -- the Tour of Catalonia and France's Dauphine Libere -- since his May 11 suspension by CONI.

The ongoing Puerto inquiry began in 2006 when a Madrid clinic was raided to gather evidence about a Spanish doctor allegedly at the center of a blood-doping ring. More than 50 cyclists were implicated.