By Jonny Long
The press officer of Vini Zabù, the Italian ProTeam raided by police last week after one of their riders tested positive for EPO, says the graphic shared by the MPCC showing the nine positive tests the team has returned over the past 12 years is "very inappropriate".
"Vini Zabù: same old story!" read the tweet posted by the Movement For Credible Cycling, linking to a longer statement condemning the team. Vini Zabù hit back, however, saying the organisation should make similar timelines for teams that are MPCC members, adding they think the organisation "will be surprised" by the result.
"Our answer to the MPCC was easy, we are now talking to the UCI and the police, we don't need to talk to anyone else," Vini Zabù's press officer, Valerio Bianco, told the Lanterne Rouge podcast.
"The timeline I think was very inappropriate because inside of that organisation, which is not our organisation...there are teams that have the same problems that we have.
"Once you work in a cycling team you start to understand and see the movements. If a rider from another team will be caught, I will never see that the team is guilty, because I see how we work and how the other teams work. It's not because I work in a team, but I think the teams can't have responsibility when a rider crosses the line. The guy went for EPO...like in the 1990s."
Bianco retold the events that began on Tuesday morning, with the Italian team raided by police after Matteo De Bonis tested positive for EPO, the rider subsequently signing a confession and the team also self-suspending until the matter is resolved.
"Everything started on Tuesday morning at 6.30, we heard someone knocking on the door and it was the police and we were like, 'what?'" Bianco said.
"We couldn't really connect it in our heads, you know it was 6.30am in our home, the police checking everything. All the riders were brought into the police station, all the phones were taken off the Italian riders or the ones who live in Italy.
"Police checked everywhere in all the homes and we found out afterwards this was because of Matteo De Bonis. The team didn't know anything until Tuesday at 6.30am."
De Bonis subsequently met with the team at their headquarters, accompanied by his father and lawyer, and signed a confession, saying he acted alone within the team, also giving the name of who supplied him with the product, as well as when are where he used it.
Bianco also revealed that he's been to the police to report abuse on social media, arguing that people aren't respecting the peril that situations such as these put on the people and families working for the team.
"A lot of people are ranting on social media this week but no-one thinks behind this there are more than 30 people working for us, more than 30 families, and everything is in danger now," Bianco said.
"Yesterday morning I went to the police station because someone went too far and called me and my family out on social media. This is criminal, it's the private life of me and my family. People are f**ked. I went to the police because this is not acceptable. I know everyone is bored because there is a pandemic on but you can't do this."
Vini Zabú could now be suspended for between 15 to 45 days under UCI rules, after their former rider Matteo Spreafico tested positive for ostarine during the Giro d’Italia in October last year, which could result in the team missing this year’s Giro.
"The wildcard is so important because it's the most followed event in Italy, more so than the Tour de France. As an Italian team most of our sponsors are Italian, the Giro gives us the most visibility," Bianco said.
"I can't imagine what will happen if we're not at the start this year. We want to show that we don't have anything to do with this. Even if it's the second case in a few months, but there's really nothing more we can do than what we are doing.
"The analysis with the biological passport. We can clearly see a rider at the start of 2021...how can you relate this doping case to something that the team has done or ordered this guy to do. That's something I can't see...what we're trying to explain. Then it's going to be up to the investigation, to the police.
"We decided to self-suspend because it doesn't make sense to go and race. We hope it's going to be quick and we just have to wait. But we know there could be a chance that we won't race the Giro d'Italia. With the self-suspension we want to show we are co-operating. Even me here [speaking on the podcast], if I was feeling dirty or guilty I would never come on here. The team wants to show it's open to collaborating and it's something [that happened] outside the team."
Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races. I'm 6'0", 26 years old, have a strong hairline and have an adequate amount of savings for someone my age. I'm very single at the minute so if you know anyone, hit me up.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab, reporting about students evacuating their bowels on nightclub dancefloors and consecrating their love on lecture hall floors. I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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