Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde will make his comeback from a two-year doping ban at this month's Tour Down Under, the opening event of cycling's 2012 ProTour.
Valverde was stripped of his No. 1 world ranking and banned for two years from January 2010 after being implicated in Operation Puerto, a blood-doping ring involving more than 50 riders.
While he never tested positive for a banned drug, Valverde was reportedly linked to the doping ring by DNA evidence seized in police raids in 2006 on the Madrid clinic of sports physician Eufemiano Fuentes.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) and the World Anti-Doping Agency successfully applied to the Court of Arbitration of Sport for sanctions to be imposed on Valverde. Spanish cycling authorities had previously been reluctant to act against him, saying they were constrained by national laws.
The UCI first tried to ban Valverde from the 2007 world cycling championships, but the Spaniard successfully appealed to the CAS. He continued to compete until 2010, winning the Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic in 2006 and 2008, the Vuelta a Espana in 2009, and three stages of the Tour de France, wearing the tour leader's yellow jersey for two days in 2008.
Valverde competed in the 2010 Tour Down Under, finishing second on stage three and 19th overall on general classification. He was later stripped of that result when his doping ban was imposed.
Valverde will headline the Movistar team at this year's Tour Down Under, which runs from Jan. 15-22 and comprises six stages around the state of South Australia.