Alessandro Petacchi will continue in the Tour de France despite being part of a doping investigation at home in Italy. He is one of the top favourites for the green jersey competition, which he trails by four points to rival Thor Hushovd.
“If someone is positive, he should go home and have his suspension,” said Hushovd, “but you have to have proof.”
Padova prosecutor, Benedetto Roberti is working on the proof. Prior to the Tour de France, he sent Petacchi a registered letter that he is under investigation for doping and has since passed his information to head prosecutor of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), Ettore Torri.
According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Petacchi is accused of using synthetic blood Perfluorocarbon (PFC) and human serum albumin, which is used to lower EPO levels.
Petacchi’s lawyer said his rider was not informed of the investigation until July 12, after the Tour de France started on July 3. Regardless, Petacchi will meet with Roberti after the race and he has the support of his team.
Team Lampre-Farnese said yesterday that it would continue to support Petacchi until it receives further information, giving no indication that it would send Petacchi home.
Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich were sent home prior to the 2006 Tour de France when they were linked to Operación Puerto, Danilo Di Luca was not allowed to start the 2004 race due to Oil for Drugs and Michael Rasmussen was forced out of the race while leading in 2007 for lying about his whereabouts prior to the race.
“Will they send me home? I hope not. I have battled and gave my all. I will try not to think about it,” said Petacchi yesterday.
“I will try to face the stages with the same grit, I can’t make any compromises. I have a Tour to finish.”
Petacchi won the stages to Brussels and Reims and will aim for the next two possible sprint stages, Bordeaux and Paris. If he wins one or places highly, he has a chance to win the final green jersey in Paris in four days.
In Italy, though, Roberti is fighting a different battle.
Police searched Petacchi’s home and two other locations owned by his wife in April. Investigators did not find anything in their raids, but in a simultaneous raid, they did find banned substances at team-mate Lorenzo Bernucci’s home. Bernucci is currently suspended by team Lampre.
“It’s not my stuff and it was not found in my home. I don’t know why I am accused of using those two substances,” said Petacchi. “If they were found at my home then I would not start the race today [Tuesday].”
Petacchi may be linked to Doctor Filippo Manelli. In separate drug raids, all headed by Roberti, police found prescriptions and banned substances with Manelli’s name on them.
Filippo Manelli is linked to Italian Davide Rebellin (found positive for EPO after winning a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics) and Bruno Leali (head of Italian amateur team who was kicked out of the GiroBio last month following a drug raid).
Police raided Manelli’s home and several other locations June 29 as part of Roberti’s investigation.
Tour de France 2010: Latest news
Tour de France 2010: Stage reports
Tour de France 2010: Photos
Tour de France 2010: Videos
Tour de France 2010: Race guide
Tour de France 2010: Pictures