By Gregor Brown
The Giro d'Italia says that although it could still act to punish Bardiani-CSF for the team's anti-doping positives ahead of the race, the damage to its image has already been done.
Nicola Ruffoni and Stefano Pirazzi tested positive for growth hormones GH-Releasing Peptides (GHRPs) on April 25 and 26, respectively. The results were released last night, 12 hours before the 100th edition of the Giro d'Italia pushed off from Alghero, in Sardinia.
The riders were removed from the start-list, with the next step being confirmation of the positive via B samples.
"I could've technically [sent the team home] given the damages to our image, but I wanted to wait, because if the B sample comes back different, they could ask the Giro for damages," the Giro d'Italia's Cycling Director Mauro Vegni said.
"We need to wait until it's clear. If it is clear [they are positive], I can ask for damages from the team. The damages were already done, though, when the media comes out with it. The damage is done already, unfortunately."
Pirazzi starred in the Giro in 2013 when he won the mountains classification and a year later, he won the stage to Vittorio Veneto. Ruffoni recently won two stages in the Tour of Croatia.
Watch: Cycling Weekly's guide to week one at the Giro d'Italia
Bardiani heard the news when it was at the teams' presentation on Alghero's seafront last night. For any team, it is unwelcome, but for one of the four wildcard teams racing on a special invitation it is even more damaging.
The team is one of 22 racing and one of only two Italian teams, alongside Wilier-Selle Italia. It won a stage last year with Giulio Ciccone, and claimed the Italian Cup classification at the end of 2016.
The team found Vegni this morning and apologised directly. Vegni shook his head, seemingly disgusted with the news.
"I'm sorry for the Giro, for Italian cycling, and that team represented Italian cycling. It shows that you have to keep your attention high for doping, because unfortunately, there's always an idiot," Vegni said.
"It happened, it's sad, but the Giro has so much more to it. The media reported on it, which they should have, but they gave much news to the party going on at the presentation."
The riders spoke with team managers Bruno and Roberto Reverberi briefly last night before staff members took them to the airport to leave.
When asked about those wondering if the team had organised doping, Bardiani Sports Director Stefano Zanatta said, "We have to show that's not the case, that it was just something between them. We don't know how they did it – maybe it'll come out how they did it in the investigation.
"It ruins my image. I've been working for 20 years to show the right way, but then this stuff happens."
The Giro pushed off from Alghero today for Olbia, in the country's northeast. It seems the green team will continue in the race with only seven riders without further penalty.
"You don't know what will happen, we always tried to do our best, but yeah, in a situation like this, I know that it can happen [being sent home]. We have to wait for the race organiser and the UCI to decide. It's terrible, I'm sorry for our sport, for this race and for our team," added Zanatta.
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