Ballan and Bruseghin to be questioned this month in Mantova investigation
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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ballan and Bruseghin to be questioned this month in Mantova investigation

by Shane Stokes at 5:29 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
Former world champion could miss Tour de France

Alessandro ballanRecently returned to competition by his BMC Racing Team, former world champion Alessandro Ballan appears to be back in hot water with the announcement by Italian Olympic Committee CONI that he must appear before anti-doping investigators on June 27th. He will join Lampre-ISD rider Marzio Bruseghin in the hot seat that day.

The Italians are to be questioned in relation to the long-running Mantova doping investigation.

In April, a large number of professional riders and team staff were named by Italian media as being involved. These included thirteen riders currently or formerly contracted to the Lampre team, namely Ballan, his BMC Racing Team-mate Mauro Santambrogio, Marco Bandiera, Emanuele Bindi, Bruseghin, Damiano Cunego, Mauro Da Dalto, Francesco Gavazzi, Mirko Lorenzetto, Manuele Mori, Simone Ponzi, Francesco Tomei and Daniele Pietropolli.

Also implicated are general manager Giuseppe Saronni plus directeurs sportifs Fabrizio Bontempi and Maurizio Piovani, as well as the soigneur Fabio Della Torre.

Other current/past riders named who are not connected to the squad were also listed. These are Francesco Bonazzi, Geo Bonazzi, Paolo Bossoni, Nicola Castrini, Pietro Caucchioli, Sergio Gelati, Roberto Messina, Massimiliano Mori, Paolo Pezzi, Mariano Piccoli and Michael Rasmussen, as well as the mountain bike rider Sebastian Gilmozzi. Footballer Matteo Zambroni was also named, as was former team doctor Josè Ibarguren.

A number of those will also appear before CONI this month.

Massimiliano Mori is first, with his hearing on June 21st, and is then followed by Messina and Bossoni (June 22nd), Nigrelli, Gelati and Gilmozzi (June 23rd). After the June 27th hearing date of Ballan and Bruseghin, soigneur Della Torre and doctor Ibarguren will face questioning.

Today’s announcement comes just over two weeks after the BMC Racing Team said that Ballan would be allowed to return to competition. On May 2nd, it had said that it was suspending the former world champion plus Santambrogio. It quoted team president Jim Ochowitz as saying that the situation had changed since the Classics, and that new information the team had received, ‘along with consideration of the team's anti-doping policy and the UCI's Code of Conduct,’ had led to the decision to sideline the two.

However at the end of May, he appeared to do an about-turn. “To date, the BMC Racing Team has never been notified by any authorities regarding these alleged actions and conversations," Ochowicz said. "We support all anti-doping policies and initiatives and, within the team, we are confident that since the two joined the BMC Racing Team in 2010 no doping issues have arisen.”

The team added that neither the UCI, WADA, CONI, or any other such authority had been in contact in relation to ‘any suspicious doping issues regarding either rider.’

With things clearly moving forward now, the team may be forced to sideline the rider before the Tour de France. He previously missed the Giro due to the investigation.

Last month, Bruseghin protested his innocence as he confirmed that he’d have to sit out the Italian Grand Tour. "I I say I'm innocent, nobody will believe me, but I've got faith in cycling, even if some people want to make you ashamed of your profession,” he told Tuttosport. “But no, that's not the case: cycling is my job and allows me to pay my mortgage. I've always pedalled with pride and with my head held high. For this reason, I think I merit a little more respect.”

The truth of those words will be tested in the weeks and months ahead.


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