The Spanish Supreme Court restores 2005 Vuelta a España victory to Roberto Heras. The victory was given to Denis Menchov of Rabobank.

In his heydays, Heras was dominating the Vuelta a España. He won the Spanish Grand Tour a record-tying three times, in 2000, 2003, and 2004.

He broke the record with a fourth win in 2005 but was disqualified for taking EPO. In June 2011, Heras successfully appealed the disqualification in the civil court of Castilla y León, and this decision was upheld in the Spanish supreme court in December 2012. The Spanish cycling federation subsequently reinstated Heras as 2005 Vuelta champion.

He was also fifth and a stage winner in the 1997 Vuelta, sixth (and another stage victory) a year later, and third in 1999; that year he finished sixth and won a stage in the Giro d’Italia.

Roberto Heras in Vuelta a España leader's jersey.
Roberto Heras in Vuelta a España leader’s jersey.

From 2001, he raced alongside Lance Armstrong on the US Postal Service team. As a climbing specialist, he assisted Armstrong in the mountain stages of the Tour de France.

During the 2002 Tour de France Lance Armstrong was in 2nd place overall going into stage 11 where the race entered the high mountains. Going up the final climb on the Tourmalet Heras set such a dominating pace at the front of the fragmented Peloton that all of Armstrong’s rivals were dropped with the exception of Joseba Beloki.

The ride put in by Heras set up Armstrong to take over Yellow Jersey from the ONCE-Eroski team lead by Beloki, Abraham Olano, and Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano who was in the overall lead at the start of Stage 11. Beloki finished 2nd overall in the stage as Heras came in 3rd with both riders behind Armstrong who finally launched his attack for the stage win.

The next day in Stage 12 once again Roberto Heras set such a furious pace on the final climb that all of Armstrong’s rivals were dropped with the exception of Beloki except this time it was Heras who crossed in 2nd while Beloki took third.

At the end of 2003, he left US Postal Service team to lead the Spanish Liberty Seguros team. He was thought to be a contender for the 2004 Tour de France but abandoned after the 16th stage due to lack of fitness. Heras entered the Vuelta a España and won, equalling Tony Rominger’s record three wins. During the first mountain stages, it seemed an easy win but in the last week he had a challenge from Santiago Pérez.

In the 2005 Vuelta a España, Heras won two mountain stages (including the Estación de Esquí de Pajares) and lost the last time trial by less than a second, something nobody expected from the non-time-trial-specialist Heras. Heras won for the fourth time, a record.

However, a drug test in November 2005, two months after the race, showed a positive test for EPO from the day of time trial (stage 20). Heras was fired and faced a two-year suspension. His Vuelta win was given to second place finisher, Russian Denis Menchov.

Roberto Heras did not go to the Court of Appeal for Spot, but appealed through the civil courts, alleging inaccuracies in the testing and mishandling of his samples. He appealed this decision in the civil court of Castilla y León, and was successful. The Spanish cycling federation appealed at the Spanish supreme court, but in December 2012 this court upheld the decision; the Spanish cycling federation is investigating the decision, and said that the most likely result is that Heras will be reinstated.

After the title was taken from Roberto Heras, the victory was given to Denis Menchov of Rabobank. It is now not clear which of the two will be officially recognized as the winner, nor what might happen with prize money. The Russian won the race in 2005 and 2007, but if today’s ruling turns out to be the final word on the matter, he has now lost the first of those victories.

Heras told the EFE news agency, “I received the news with great joy. I was hopeful but did not have excessive illusions. It was a big decision for me and I am happy to again have the Vuelta 2005.”


M. Özgür Nevres

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