Italian cyclist Diego Ulissi (Lampre-Merida) received a nine-month doping ban today that will allow him to return to competition as early as 28 March.
"I'm just going to concentrate on training and recovering lost time," he told Italy's Tutto Bici website. "I'll let the team talk on my behalf."
"Diego's always been a Lampre rider," Lampre Team Manager Brent Copeland told Cycling Weekly.
Ulissi could return in time to race the Ardennes Classics, starting with the Amstel Gold Race on April 19.
The Tuscan, 25, tested positive for asthma drug Salbutamol in the 2014 Giro d'Italia after winning two stages and placing second in the Barlolo time trial.
Switzerland, where Ulissi lives and is licensed as a professional cyclist, ruled lightly considering it reportedly was considering a ban between nine and 12 months
He tested positive in the Giro's 11th stage to Savona. His urine test showed 1900 nanograms per millilitre of Salbutamol, nearly double the limit of 1000ng/ml. His team explained at the time that he was using an inhaler with Salbutamol spray, took two puffs ahead stage and a paracetamol from the race doctor after crashing.
Ulissi and his lawyer argued that the crash at the start of the stage caused a jump in values and the resulting positive test.
Cyclists often use inhalers to treat asthma. Sky's Chris Froome made headlines when TV images showed him puffing Salbutamol ahead of summit finish in June's Critérium du Dauphiné.
Rules require a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) if an athlete is using over a certain amount. You do not need an exemption for Salmeterol/Salbutamol (up to a daily dose of 1600 micrograms) and/or Formoterol (up to a daily dose of 54 micrograms). Terbutaline requires an exception.
Lampre stood by its cyclist. When Ulissi's case faced delays, it raced him in Italy's Coppa Bernocchi one-day classic on September 16. The same day, cycling's governing body, the UCI, responded and referred his case to Swiss Cycling's disciplinary committee.
Switzerland's ban took into account the days last summer that Ulissi was not able to compete. His back-dated suspension runs from June 25, 2014, to March 28. It allows him to return in time for the Ardennes Classics and the Giro d'Italia.
The UCI could appeal the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), but has yet to comment on Switzerland's ruling.
"Finally a decision has come today after a long and difficult period for me," Ulissi commented. "I feel it is important to underline the recognition that I have not acted with the intent to improve my athletic performance, but it has been established that I committed negligently, which of course I regret, especially for the corresponding damage which has been caused to the team.
"I have always received great support from the team as well as from my Family who have constantly stayed close to me throughout these difficult times.
"I am pleased that, in the light of this decision, my victories and results obtained remain unchanged. I can now start to concentrate and look forward to planning my return to racing."
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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