Rasmussen denies Mantova doping involvement, BMC Racing keeps Ballan on roster
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Saturday, April 9, 2011

Rasmussen denies Mantova doping involvement, BMC Racing keeps Ballan on roster

by Conal Andrews at 11:43 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
Italian investigation casts spotlight on 32 individuals, Lampre heavily linked

Michael RasmussenApparently dormant for several months, the Mantova investigation flared up again yesterday with the news that prosecutors are considering charging up to 32 individuals thought to be involved. Michael Ramussen and Alessandro Ballan are two of those mentioned; for now, both their teams are backing them in one form or another.

Rasmussen has categorically denied any connection to doping practices. He has admitted going to the pharmacy in question, but claimed there was an innocent explanation. “I shop there for the simple reason that it is the only pharmacy that I know where I can get a discount,” he told TV2 Sport.

“All who in some way know the pharmacist have been questioned. I was in April last year, but I’m not accused of anything.”

He told Sporten.dk that he hadn’t purchased anything that was banned. “I have no idea why I was mentioned. I certainly accept that I bought veterinary products, face care for my wife and some vitamin preparations at the pharmacy.”

Rasmussen was banned for two years in 2007 after he lied about his whereabouts prior to the Tour de France. He was removed from the race by his under-pressure Rabobank team, despite being in yellow and looking set to win overall.

He is currently competing with the Christina Watches team, who have said that they don’t believe he did anything wrong. “Michael was taken in for questioning by police in Italy last year in connection with the case,” said general manager Claus Hembo to TV2 Sport. “And just like with the blood doping case in Austria, they took DNA samples and fingerprints. Since then there has been nothing on the matter.

“Although it might be a new story in public, there is nothing new for us. It is quite undramatic. Michael has out full support and confidence.”

As for Ballan, he was another of the 32 people linked to the case. He is accused of receiving an autologous blood transfusion in the spring of 2009 in Montichiari. This was confirmed to the Corriere della Serra by public prosecutor Guido Nigrella, and is based on phone tapping. Mauro Santambrogio is also mentioned and, like Ballan, moved from Lampre to the BMC Racing Team last year. Both riders were suspended from competition, missed last year’s Paris-Roubaix as a result, and later returned to active racing.

For now, BMC Racing has given him the benefit of the doubt and he will ride Paris-Roubaix tomorrow.

According to a team spokesman, the team has not received any official notification and so things continue as originally planned. “As far as the team is concerned, everything remains as normal. Everyone is going to be at the presentation [the pre-race presentation today],” he said. “There are no changes planned to the lineup.”

Ballan has shown strong form this spring and is regarded as one of the possible winners in tomorrow’s race.

Long list of names:

Many others who were with the Lampre team at the time of the investigation are implicated, including general manager Giuseppe Saronni plus directeurs sportifs Fabrizio Bontempi and Maurizio Piovani, as well as the soigneur Fabio Della Torre.

Italian media has also named thirteen riders who either current are with Lampre, or who were part of the team in the past. These are the 2008 world champion Ballan, Marco Bandiera, Emanuele Bindi, Marzio Bruseghin, Damiano Cunego, Mauro Da Dalto, Francesco Gavazzi, Mirko Lorenzetto, Manuele Mori, Simone Ponzi, Mauro Santambrogio, Francesco Tomei and Daniele Pietropolli.

Ballan has since moved to the BMC Racing Team, as has Mauro Santambrogio.

The Lampre team yesterday denied receiving any official communication about the case, and said that it was unable to act until such time as that happens.

Italian media named others current and former riders as being scrutinised in the investigation These are Francesco Bonazzi, Geo Bonazzi, Paolo Bossoni, Nicola Castrini, Pietro Caucchioli, Sergio Gelati, Roberto Messina, Massimiliano Mori, Paolo Pezzi, Mariano Piccoli, as well as the mountain bike rider Sebastian Gilmozzi. Footballer Matteo Zambroni was also named, as was former team doctor Josè Ibarguren.

If the charges are proven, they would be extremely serious for the Lampre squad as it would suggest a coordinated doping network orchestrated by the team. While these have happened in the past with squads such as Festina, it has long been said that the sport has moved on from such a level of organised, institutionalised doping.

It’s early days now and a final outcome is likely to be quite some way off. In the meantime, Lampre-ISD plus the teams of Rasmussen and Ballan intend to allow the riders to keep racing, at least until they are officially informed that the case is progressing and their riders are involved.


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