Leading team at the Baby Giro tossed from race after police raid
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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Leading team at the Baby Giro tossed from race after police raid

by Jered Gruber at 10:25 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
A pharmacy of illegal products found at the race and at the team's headquarters

The amateur version of the Giro d'Italia, known as the Girobio, or Baby Giro, is in full swing in Italy right now. The race, which has ushered many a rider into the ProTour ranks is one of the most difficult and highly coveted races in the world for young riders. The race has made a stand against doping in the race and has done nearly everything in its power to dissuade riders from becoming involved in the doping culture. Unfortunately, it looks like old habits die hard.

On Friday evening, the night after the first stage of the Baby Giro, the NAS Carabinieri of Brescia, Florence, and Padua raided the hotel of the race and found an illicit treasure trove of doping products from one team, Lucchini Unidelta Ecovalsabbia. Only hours before, the team had taken victory by way of their rider, Omar Lombardi, in the bunch sprint that concluded the first day. Then came the fall-out.

The raiding authorities found prohibited drugs and a huge assortment of doping paraphernalia. The doping materials that were found at the race hotel were also found at team headquarters in Brescia, which was searched at the same time as the hotel.

La Repubblica reports that the prohibited drugs included insulin, female hormones, stimulants, pills, syringes, and butterfly needles, which are used for blood transfusions. This would be illegal under any circumstance, but it stands out even more starkly at the Baby Giro, where riders are not even allowed to take medicines of any sort including vitamins, unless expressly handed over to the race officials before the race, who then approve or forbid the use of the requested product. The goal, of course, is to push the race as far as possible from the dependence on any product, whether legal or illegal.

Apart from the discouragement of the use of any sort of medication, the Baby Giro has made a huge push to curb doping in the race and in the sport in general by creating a better environment for the racers. The organizers require that the riders eat together, and they also house them in basic communal living arrangements. Racers are not allowed contact with their director sportif outside of the race, but they are allowed to receive massages from the team soigneurs. Riders aren't forbidden to play video games or communicate on their cell phones, but it is discouraged. Each night, the riders listen to talks given by vital people and riders in the cycling industry. The goal is to bring the racers together and create a community of friends, with the hope that riders and team management can in fact be shown that it is possible to race bikes without doping.

The Baby Giro is doing the right thing it seems, but it's hard to do combat with years and years of tradition. In this case, the solution was simple and utterly undeniable: the team of former professional racer, Bruno Leali, was summarily tossed out of the race before the start of Saturday's second stage. Omar Lombardi was set to start the day in the leader's jersey. That will most likely be the least of the team's worries. There should be a lot more to come of this story in the future, and hopefully, maybe it will have some kind of positive effect. It's disappointing to see a race go out of its way in such a special manner to create a positive, drug-free atmosphere for young racers, and then see it so blatantly disregarded and spat upon.


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