ACCPI criticizes BMC Racing over Ballan and Santambrogio
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Monday, April 12, 2010

ACCPI criticizes BMC Racing over Ballan and Santambrogio

by VeloNation Press at 9:27 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 

The Italian Professional Cyclists Association (ACCPI) has criticized the American BMC Racing team for suspending former Lampre riders Alessandro Ballan and Mauro Santambrogio in the wake of the "via col doping" investigation, which is currently underway in Padua, Italy.  Current and former riders with the Lampre squad, as well as team officials, are amongst those being scrutinized for their links with the coach Guido Nigrelli.

ACCPI Secretary Federico Maria Scaglia told Reuters, "There is still no specific accusation. All we know is that there is an investigation that will take six more months before it's finished."

"The prosecutor, himself, said that those under investigation will not necessarily be accused of anything. So suspending the riders now seems an imprudent and unfair act to us.

"If they come out clean, who will pay back the damage to their image and the loss of racing?"

Current Lampre riders Alessandro Petacchi and Lorenzo Bernucci had their houses searched just over a week ago. Nothing was found in Petacchi’s residence, but Bernucci is facing a possible life ban from the sport after several substances were discovered, including the blood thinner Albumine plus a stimulant called Sibutramine. The rider tested positive for the latter in 2007 and faced a ban then.

Scaglia looked upon action taken by BMC Racing as potentially damaging to the sport by creating guilty parties without the accusation being known.

"It seemed to me that the team acted in this way to avoid having any problems," continued Scaglia.

"Cycling has lost credibility because of riders who have committed doping offenses, but if we carry on like this we'll lose more credibility as there are no certainties here."

The team declined to comment on Scaglia's criticism, but BMC Racing Team President Jim Ochowicz released a statement explaining the decision:

“It has come to our attention that two of our riders, Alessandro Ballan and Mauro Santambrogio, are the subject of an investigation by Italian authorities stemming from incidents that took place more than two years ago - when they were members of the Lampre team and not affiliated with the BMC Racing Team.

“The BMC Racing Team and its members were not aware of this investigation until a few days ago and we hope to obtain more information about the proceedings. However, we have already made the decision to withhold the two from competition, in accordance with the BMC Racing Team's own policy and the UCI's Code of Conduct (Section IX, Item 2). This should not be seen as pre-determination of guilt in connection with the Italian investigation. Both will have to personally address the accusations.”

BMC Racing's move to sideline their riders echos what some will see as a change in the sport's general sentiment towards doping.  While the decision may be seen as overkill by some, erring on the side of caution could be seen as prudent when looking at cycling's recent history.  Several big sponsorships have been wiped away by doping scandal; Gerolsteiner, Saunier Duval, iShares and Liberty Seguros to name a few.  Others have been fortunate to hold on to their sponsorships, but have paid the price in the form of race organizers preventing their team from taking the start.  Ochowicz has taken a tough decision, especially considering the fact that the Lampre team was permitted to race in Paris-Roubaix, but most in the sport will appreciate the team's point of view.

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