Bernucci rumoured to have confessed to doping charges, Petacchi denies and hopes to ride Vuelta
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bernucci rumoured to have confessed to doping charges, Petacchi denies and hopes to ride Vuelta

by Conal Andrews at 6:19 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España, Doping
 
Italian sprinter could be blocked from Spanish tour if preliminary ban is issued

Alessandro PetacchiTour de France Maillot Vert Alessandro Petacchi faces an nervous wait to see if he will be able to take part in this year’s Vuelta a España, having denied all charges of doping yesterday.

The 36 year old Italian faced a two hour hearing before the anti-doping prosecutor of the Italian Olympic Committee CONI yesterday, and insisted he had done nothing wrong.

"I think I explained my position and I responded to all the questions they asked me," Petacchi said after his two-hour hearing with CONI’s Tammaro Maiello, according to AP.

After netting two stage wins plus the green jersey in the Tour, the sprinter has been preparing for the Vuelta a España. He hopes it will both bring more success and set him up for a strong world championship. However his entry could be blocked if CONI decides to issue a preliminary ban ahead of a trial before the committee's anti-doping court.

"I don't know," Petacchi said, when asked if he believed he’d be at the Spanish tour, which begins in Seville on Saturday. "It's not up to me."

The domestique Lorenzo Bernucci declined to speak with the media after the hearing. Like Petacchi, he has insisted he is innocent, but reports in the Italian press say that he may have changed his position yesterday.

According to Eugene Capodacqua, a respected journalist with La Repubblica, sources close to the investigation said that Bernucci had confessed and would be charged. He suggests that it could be part of a defence strategy where the smaller rider takes the blame, thus helping Petacchi escape sanction.

If either are deemed guilty, they will face a lengthy ban due to previous suspensions. Petacchi served a nine month sanction after excessive use of the asthma inhaler salbutamol during the 2007 Giro d’Italia, while Bernucci was busted for sibutramine, a weight control drug.

While neither rider has tested positive this time round, they have been linked to blood doping. Italian anti-doping police raided Bernucci’s home in April and reportedly seized the banned blood-booster perfluorocarbon (PFC), as well as human albumin. Bernucci’s wife was also stopped before flying out of Pisa airport; it is thought that she might have been intending to bring a banned product to her husband, who was racing in one of the Belgian Classics.

Petacchi is also suspected to have been using the same substances as were taken from Bernucci’s home. It is believed that wiretaps involving the doctor Filippo Manelli of Gavardo in Brescia, as well as raids on the doctor’s house, are an important part of the investigation.

CONI’s head prosecutor Ettore Torri missed yesterday’s hearing as he is on holidays. He will liase with his assisant Maiello when he returns, comparing Petacchi’s statement yesterday with the testimony he gave before.

As for Petacchi’s aim to ride the Vuelta a España, that will depend on what CONI decides to do and how quickly it will act on that.

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