Dodgy, sleazy past, and may to this day be on some kind of doping regimen - but a very entertaining racer, and furthermore Valverde does not moralize about "a new clean era", or "zero tolerance", nor feign shock about there being doping in pro cycling. He just keeps his mouth shut. That's why his fans see Valverde more as a 'rascal' than a 'villain'. And he is revered by some younger pros such as Lopez or Pantano, they praise Valverde and wanted to be like him when they were starting out in their cycling careers
Yes. I find it baffling that some "fans" of the sport will wilfully endorse brazen cheats and condemn others simply because of their PR stance. You wouldn't do that if someone stole from you or assaulted you - you'd just think that they were a swine.
Cheering the likes of Vino at worlds, Horner in the Vuelta and Rasmussen at the Tour is difficult for some, like me, to grasp. The most extreme, brazen examples of doping bring the sport into disrepute. Valverde has peaked (relative to the peloton) after hitting 35 years of age and that is simply farcical.
Vino at the Olympics was different though. That wasn't about cheering Vino so much as all of the pre-race bluster. Pat McQuaid was there to present the gold medal. This was his baby - it was all about the culmination of the rebirth of cycling as a clean sport, with, on the back of the victory for Wiggins in the Tour, was expected to be Cavendish or some other youngish gun that they could get behind as a figurehead for the new, clean cycling. And because by this point most fans were well aware that McQuaid had been at least aware of, and likely complicit in, the whole Armstrong debacle, the idea that he would take credit for the sport's reinvention was loathsome and distasteful for a large number of fans, both those who thought the sport hadn't cleaned up and who baulked at the sight of Sky doing a dead-on impersonation of US Postal in the name of clean cycling all season long, and those who thought the sport had
indeed cleaned up but did not like the idea of the very man who presided over much of the sport's worst days taking the credit for it on a global scale. So, seeing it completely blow up in his face as he had to hang the medal round the neck of a man who more or less defined the template for an unrepentant doper, a man they could never
claim as the face of the new clean cycling in a million years, was far more satisfying for many fans than it would have been had it just been your everyday one-day race with Vino winning. Remember, self-same Vino was booed to the line in Liège-Bastogne-Liège.