Italian Franco Pellizotti met the press yesterday in Milan, not to speak about the Giro d’Italia, but about his biological passport numbers that are keeping him from racing.
“There is not a positive control of a banned substance. There is not the possibility to ask for a counter-analysis. There are only suspensions, based on numbers. The variation of two parameters, which my experts believe are in the consented limits,” Pellizotti told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“I am pissed because what they took from me, no one will be able to give back.”
Pellizotti won the Blockhaus stage at last year’s Giro d’Italia and finished third overall – behind Danilo Di Luca who tested positive – and then went on to win the Tour de France’s mountains competition.
He was supposed to lead Liquigas alongside Ivan Basso at this year’s Giro, instead the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) stopped him by announcing on Monday he was one of three riders with suspicious biological passport readings.
The UCI introduced the biological passport at the start of the 2008 season and used it to catch five cyclists last June. It also had Dutchman Thomas Dekker on its radar, according to UCI President Pat McQuaid, though he tested positive for blood booster Erythropoietin (EPO) before being caught by the passport.
The biological passport monitors a range of levels taken from a rider’s blood and urine samples, allowing independent experts to look for suspicious changes. It can declare a doping case even if no banned substances are found.
“I thought it [the biological passport] was started as an instrument to monitor the riders and hit at those suspected of cheating,” continued Pellizotti. “It was like that in most cases. But this is what bothers me, after the Tour, they did only one surprise control, August 9, and another at our team camp in March 2010. If there were doubts, why did they not control me more?
“If they had brought up this variation before then I would have had time to defend myself and show that there are not anomalies.”
UCI labs found the anomalies on December 6 and asked Pellizotti on March 3 to offer an explanation, according to the newspaper. Pellizotti refused to mention it to his team or the press.
“I had faith. I received a request from the UCI to explain and I gave it, with help from my advisors. I was convinced there would not be a disciplinary case opened.”
Monday, May 17, when the Giro d’Italia’s riders will race a flat stage near Salerno, Pellizotti will face the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) in Rome. The CONI will likely issue a two-year suspension to the the 32-year-old rider from Italy’s northeast Friuli-Venezia Giulia region.
“I hope to leave this behind as soon as possible because I have the desire to return and race. If banned? I could also take civil action, but I won’t return to race.”