(UPDATE Nov. 25: Lab confirms EPO in Heras sample)
Imagine this scene, cycling fans.
A laboratory full of people — technicians in white lab coats, bicycle team sponsors, maybe a cyclist or two, and at least one lawyer and a few other suits standing around.
On a table in front of them sits, what, a test tube (?) filled with a yellowish liquid.
The vial holds the final results of this year's Vuelta a Espana bike race.
The cyclist, Robert Heras, stands accused of using the banned blood booster EPO during this year's Vuelta, a three-week bicycle classic that he won for the unprecedented fourth time.
The first of two September 27th urine samples tested several weeks later showed traces of EPO. The second sample was to be tested today; the results will be made public later this week, probably Thursday.
If Heras fails that test too, he'll lose his Vuelta title, which will be transferred to second place finisher Denis Menchov of the Rabobank team. Heras — undoubtedly the most celebrated Spanish cyclist since Big Mig Indurain won five Tours de France back to back — will lose his job with the Liberty Seguros team and be banned from cycling for two years.
VeloNews updates the Heras news since the story broke earlier this month.
Heras says it's all a mistake; he's innocent. His attorney, Andreau Garriga, believes him.
But if the test comes back positive, Garriga promises he'll fight the suspension in court where Heras would get to plead his case to a jury of his peers.
Hamilton tested positive during the Vuelta a Espana in 2004, a year earlier than Heras. It was alleged that Hamilton has doped his blood with a transfusion to boost red blood cells. He denies the claims.