Ex-Armstrong teammate Heras banned for doping

MADRID, Spain -- Roberto Heras has been banned from competition for two years and stripped of his last title for doping, Spain's cycling federation said Thursday.

Eugenio Bermudez, the federation's secretary-general, said Heras had been notified of the decision and that he can appeal.

Jose Maria Buxeda, Heras' lawyer, said the Spanish rider would now decide whether to launch a legal appeal in Spain or take the case to the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"We need to study the decision carefully to see where we will take the appeal," Buxeda was quoted as saying by Spanish daily El Pais. "If we take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport it will take at least five months for a resolution."

Heras is a former teammate of seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

The Spaniard tested positive for the banned substance erythropoietin while capturing last year's Spanish Vuelta, one of the top races in the European cycling season. Russian Denis Menchov is now credited with the victory.

Heras, who will turn 32 this month, denied the charges.

"I never doped myself," he said. "I didn't do it during the Vuelta nor at any other time. I've always won cleanly. I can't
allow all my sacrifices to be trampled due to an error. I have to
take the result on board, but I question it."

EPO stimulates the production of red blood cells, increasing oxygen-carrying capacity and therefore improving endurance.

Heras' team, Liberty Seguros, suspended him in November after being informed by the International Cycling Union that he tested positive during the next-to-last leg of last year's Vuelta.

He also won the Vuelta in 2000, 2003 and 2004.

The only previous winner of the Tour of Spain to be stripped of his title was Spanish rider Angel Arroyo who was disqualified after testing positive for amphetamines in 1982.

"I regret that none of the arguments that we put forward was
analyzed with due technical and judicial depth," Heras said.

Heras said he favored "zero tolerance" on doping in sports.

"As everyone can imagine, it's one of the most difficult days
of my career, this and the day when they told me I tested
positive," he said. "But I don't want to forget the importance
cycling has had for me since I started at 14."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.