On Wednesday the CAS will grill Valverde’s former Kelme team-mate Jesús Manzano about Valverde’s alleged doping. But the real fireworks will happen when they put Valverde’s dog Piti on the stand.
The Alsatian has been at the center of the Spaniard’s doping allegations ever since bags of blood coded Valv. piti were seized in Operacion Puerto. Until now legal maneuvering has prevented the authorities from putting the dog under oath.
A spokesman for the UCI and WADA hopes testimony from Piti will implicate Valverde. “Nobody knows more about Valverde and Puerto than Piti. He takes the dog everywhere. Piti is definitely the key,” said an informed source.
Antonio Sánchez Sabater, Valverde’s representative, questioned the hard-ball tactics of the CAS tribunal. “They’re pressuring the dog and I find this highly irregular. Valverde walks and feeds Piti but the animal is not involved on a sporting level,” said Sabater.
However, CONI prosecutor Ettore Torri Vuelta pulled no punches on the Spanish rider: “Valverde is a doper. Even the intention to use the contents of the blood bag is against the code laid down by WADA. And Piti has seen everything.”
Legal experts were divided on what useful testimony, if any, a dog could provide. “Dogs have no capacity for language the way humans do, so I see very little to be gained,” said Aldo Bottocelli, a prominent attorney. “Barking is not evidence in any judiciary sense.”
But Valverde may still be in hot water when Piti is questioned. According to renowned animal behaviorist Claude de Chien, “Alsatians are the third most intelligent dog after the border collie and poodle. You ask a simple, direct question, they understand. Do not underestimate this dog. The raise of a paw, an affirmative bark and you have your answers.”
Perhaps Operacion Puerto will not go out with a whimper but a bark.