Tour’s points leader, Petacchi investigated for doping

Tour de France points leader, Alessandro Petacchi, is under investigation in Italy for doping, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.

Padova prosecutor, Benedetto Roberti, informed Petacchi before the Tour de France started July 3 in Rotterdam that he was under investigation for “use of forbidden substances and practices.”

The substance is Perfluorocarbon (PFC), a synthetic blood, with enormous oxygen-carrying capacity, and head prosecutor of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), Ettore Torri, already has Roberti’s documents in hand.

Petacchi currently leads the green jersey points classification at the Tour de France by two points over Thor Hushovd and 25 over Mark Cavendish. He won the stages to Brussels and Reims.

He may be linked to Doctor Filippo Manelli of Gavardo (Brescia). Police raided Manelli’s home and several other locations June 29 as part of Roberti’s investigation.

June 11, Police found Menelli’s name on confiscated prescriptions and banned pharmaceuticals during raids that were linked to sports director Bruno Leali. The raids took part during the GiroBio, where Leali and his Lucchini-Unidelta competed. His six riders were immediately booted from the GiroBio, including winner of stage one, Omar Lombardi.

Roberti’s investigation also linked to Italy’s Davide Rebellin, who finished second at the 2008 Olympic road race in Beijing and was later found positive for EPO. In Rebellin’s home, police also found prescriptions from Manelli.

La Gazzetta reported June 30 that there was another raid April 20, the day the Giro del Trentino started – a pro race with many big names, including Alexander Vinokourov, Riccardo Riccò and Team Lampre-Farnese’s Petacchi.

The investigation to Petacchi is similar to that of Mauro Santambrogio and Alessandro of team BMC Racing this spring. The two were involved in the Mantova investigation linked to their former team, Lampre, and were suspended by BMC Racing until their names were cleared.

BMC Racing is a second division team and was prompted to suspend them; otherwise, it risked losing its invitation to the Tour de France.

Lampre is a ProTour team, or first division, and is currently racing the Tour de France. The Italian team must now confront a difficult decision: save face by removing Petacchi from the race or run the risk of losing certain invites by racing with a rider under investigation.