Doping investigations force cyclists out of Giro d'Italia

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Two ongoing doping investigations have forced the Lampre-ISD team to re-shuffle its squad ahead of the Giro d'Italia, starting on Saturday in Turin. The Italian team officially welcomed Roberto Damiani as Sport Manager and left at home its riders linked to the investigation.

An investigation in Mantova, Italy, involves Lampre's General Manager Giuseppe Saronni and Sports Directors Maurizio Piovani and Fabrizio Bontempi. Also, up to 14 of its riders, some no longer with the team - Alessandro Ballan, Mauro Santambrogio and Marzio Bruseghin - are said to be under the eye of Mantova's prosecutor.

Saronni declined to be interviewed by Cycling Weekly for this article.

"He prefers to wait until he has all the documents in his had [to talk]," said team press officer, Andrea Appiani. "He doesn't want to say something wrongly."

"I don't want to give any statements now, it's better not to say anything," Piovani told Cycling Weekly. "Every word that you say is read wrongly.

"I still don't have any documents in my hand."

The prosecutor in Mantova, Antonio Condorelli has been working on the documentation since last year. It closed last month and its documentation may be passed onto the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI). The CONI could decide to suspended involved riders and staff.

A leak of the investigation last April forced BMC to suspend Ballan and Santambrogio temporally. They returned to race, Santambrogio helped Cadel Evans at the Tour de France and Ballan finished sixth at Paris-Roubaix last month.

Who's out

Alessandro Ballan (Mantova investigation)

Mauro Santambrogio (Mantova investigation)

Marzio Bruseghin (Mantova investigation)

Diego Caccia (Padova investigation)

Who's still in

Michele Scarponi (Padova investigation)

Morris Possoni (Padova investigation)

Giovanni Visconti (Padova investigation)

Evgeni Petrov (Padova investigation)

Alberto Contador (Pending CAS ruling)

Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport reported yesterday that Ballan used human growth hormone (HGH), blood transfusions and erythropoietin (EPO) in 2009, when he was the reigning World Champion. BMC on Monday suspended Ballan and Santambrogio again, forcing them both to miss the Giro d'Italia.

The newspaper also reported today that Condorelli and his team found Marzio Bruseghin used EPO in 2009, one of the four years he raced with Lampre. Bruseghin finished third in 2008 and was set to be Movistar's captain, however, he, Mauro Da Dalto (Liquigas) and Marco Bandiera (Quick Step) have been told by their teams to stay home.

The investigation is centred on Guido Nigrelli's pharmacy in Mantova. Saronni and his sports directors, Bontempi and Piovani, reportedly encouraged their riders to visit Nigrelli in 2008 and 2009. Despite the investigation, Saronni continues to run the team, but more weight is put on Damiani's shoulders.

The respected Italian agreed to finish his contract with team Omega Pharma and help Philippe Gilbert win all three Ardennes Classics prior to joining Lampre full time. He joined the Belgian team in 2007 to work with Evans and helped him place second twice at the Tour de France. Before, he worked for teams Mapei, Fassa Bortolo, Liquigas and LPR.

"Saronni had already wanted to have someone in this role," added Appiani. "It's good timing, because right now the team needs a figure like Damiani."

The Giro team will race for Michele Scarponi, who finished fourth at last year's race. Scarponi, however, is involved in a separate investigation in Padova and had his belongings searched by the police last month.

Italian prosecutor Benedetto Roberti in Padova ordered the search as part of his investigation of Michele Ferrari, Lance Armstrong's former trainer. The courts cleared Michele Ferrari in 2006 of criminal charges accusing him of distributing doping products, but the CONI banned him from working with UCI-licensed cyclists in Italy.

"Really, until there's evidence otherwise, we have no reason to be worried," said Appiani.

Lampre has decided to wait until it hears more from Roberti and run the risk of Scarponi possibly being forced to quit the Giro mid-race.

"Scarponi gave his word to the sports directors and so did his lawyer. The team is basing its decision on this information from the rider. We can't be the police."

He was also involved in the 2006 Operación Puerto doping investigation and served a 15 suspension.

Roberti also ordered police to search the homes of Morris Possoni (Sky), Italian Champion Giovanni Visconti, Diego Caccia (both Farnese Vini) and several team Katusha riders. Possoni and Visconti are still scheduled to race, but Farnese Vini left Caccia has at home.

Sky's team principle, David Brailsford, spoke to Cycling Weekly last week about Possoni. He said that "we are still establishing the facts" and depending on what they find, they "will take appropriate action."

Related links

Sky's Possoni pulled into police investigation of Ferrari

Giro d'Italia 2011: Cycling Weekly's coverage index

Giro d'Italia 2011: Start list

April 2010: Ballan suspended by team, out of Roubaix

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