By Gregor Brown
The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) will decide within a week if it will defend its biological passport system and appeal the case of Italian rider Franco Pellizotti. The decision may come sooner since the cyclist is suing for €200,000 in damages.
"Pellizotti's case is still open, contrary to what one would like to believe," a UCI representative told Italian sports newspaper, La Gazzetta dello Sport.
La Gazzetta dello Sport reported Pellizotti's plans to sue and UCI's decision date. The UCI will decide by January 13 if it will appeal Pellizotti's case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Pellizotti raced the last six years with Italy's team Liquigas. In 2009, he finished second at the Giro d'Italia and won the mountains competition at the Tour de France. Last year, tough, his season came to an early end when on May 3 the UCI announced that he had suspicious biological passport readings.
It plotted the values of Pellizotti's 22 anti-doping controls and spotted three that suspiciously stood out. It passed the information on to the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), who agreed and recommended a two-year ban. The Italian anti-doping tribunal (TNA) didn't agree, though, and acquitted him on October 21.
Pellizotti now wants to sue the UCI for his legal fees and the stress of the trial, totalling €200,000. Pellizotti and his lawyer say that the amount will jump to €800,000, including loss of income, if the CAS eventually agrees with the TNA's decision.
In the meantime, Pellizotti is searching for a team. Liquigas dropped him when his contract expired at the end of last year. Spain's Movistar team is said to be interested, but it will wait to see if the UCI appeals.
"If the rider is without a team, it is not the fault of the UCI," the UCI continued. "We have not suspended him, and the biological passport does not allow for us to do that. If Liquigas has not renewed his contract and other teams are not hiring him, Pellizotti is the only one likely responsible."
The UCI will likely to appeal the TNA's decision as it did with Slovenian Tadej Valjavec. The UCI also stopped Valjavec on May 3 for suspicious biological passport readings, but his national federation acquitted him. The CAS has yet to rule on Valjavec's case.
October 21, 2010: Franco Pellizotti acquitted by Italian Olympic committee
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