Italian investigators widening Petacchi doping probe
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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Italian investigators widening Petacchi doping probe

by Samuel Morrison at 7:22 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España, Doping
Petacchi continues to race Vuelta a España despite doping investigation in Italy

The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) is widening its doping investigation of sprinter Alessandro Petacchi as he continues to race and win. Petacchi won the seventh stage of the Vuelta a España Friday in Orihuela, Spain, the same day that CONI gathered more information from witnesses.

In April, police searched properties owned by Petacchi and his wife, and the home of Lampre team-mate Lorenzo Bernucci. Their search found banned pharmaceuticals at the home of Bernucci, who confessed in a hearing August 24. After Bernucci's confession, Petacchi met for 2.5 hours with CONI prosecutor, Tammaro Maiello.

The investigation by public prosecutor Benedetto Roberti of Padova led to the April searches. Roberti claims that Petacchi used synthetic blood Perfluorocarbon (PFC) and human serum albumin in 2009. Both Petacchi and Bernucci remained silent in an initial hearing by Italy's Anti-Narcotics Group (NAS) July 28, only three days after Petacchi won the green jersey in Paris.

The CONI is following through with Roberti's investigation. After it heard Petacchi and Bernucci, it called Lampre's Sports Director Fabrizio Bontempi, Masseur Paolo Chiesa and Doctor Carlo Guardascione in the following days.

Friday, when Petacchi won in Orihuela, the CONI heard in Rome from Bernucci's mother and brother and from Petacchi's wife, Anna Chiara, the next day. It was Petacchi's eighth win of the year, but one that he may lose if the CONI find him guilty.

"This win is payback, but only partially, for the ugly period I had after the Tour. I able to train very little, I spent more time with lawyers than I did on my bike or with my family," Petacchi told Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.

"A suspension? It would truly upset me. No. It would be disgusting because I have fought so much in my life and to end like this would not be right."

Petacchi's career as a professional cyclist will end if CONI recommends a suspension. The 36-year-old risks receiving a four-year to life-time ban since he already served a suspension in 2008 for excessive use of asthma medication, Salbutamol.

The CONI is due to communicate its decision to the Italian anti-doping tribunal (TNA) in the next week.


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