Franco Pellizotti acquitted, free to race after doping inquiry
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Franco Pellizotti acquitted, free to race after doping inquiry

by Samuel Morrison at 8:45 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
Cycling Union likely to appeal decision and defend biological passport evidence

Franco PellizottiAfter a three hour meeting in Rome today, the Italian anti-doping tribunal (TNA) has acquitted Franco Pellizotti. He faced doping charges related to irregular biological passport readings ahead of the 2009 Tour de France.

"There is not a sufficient level of certainty," said the TNA, "to consider the accused cyclist of the crimes."

The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) recommended a two-year suspension to the TNA on July 29. It had reviewed evidence from the International Cycling Union (UCI), who announced on May 3 that Pellizotti's passport showed irregularities. Pellizotti, 32, was prevented from racing the Giro d'Italia and has not raced officially since.

The UCI will likely appeal the decision today by the TNA to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Last month, the UCI appealed the Slovenian courts decision to allow cyclist Tadej Valjavec return to racing. Valjavec was one of three cyclists named by the UCI in May for having irregular biological passport readings.

Valjavec returned to racing last month. Pellizotti is free to return to racing immediately, though the season has unofficially already ended.

He has raced since 2005 with team Liquigas. At the 2009 Tour de France, Pellizotti won the mountains classification and finished second on stage nine to Tarbes. Liquigas is expected to welcome Pellizotti's return as it supported him through the investigation.

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, three of Pellizotti's 22 controls were irregular: one on December 12, 2008, at Pellizotti's home in Treviso, one on April 15, 2009, at a training camp in Tenerife, Spain, and one on July 2, 2009, at the start of the Tour de France in Monaco.

When asked by the UCI this March, Pellizotti failed to offer a sufficient explanation for the irregularities. His lawyers, however, questioned the validly of the biological passport and pointed out that results vary naturally based on altitude training or inactivity.

The TNA had suspended Italians Francesco De Bonis and Pietro Caucchioli already this May based on irregular passport results. However, its acquittal of Pellizotti today is a blow for the UCI's biological passport. Pellizotti's future, and that of the passport, is now in the hands of the Court of Arbitration for Sport.


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