The BMC team has suspended former world champion Alessandro Ballan after his name was listed among those under investigation in an ongoing Italian doping case.
Ballan, who was slated to compete in this Sunday’s edition of Paris-Roubaix, was pulled from the team’s roster along with Mauro Santambrogio, who was not scheduled to race on Sunday.
The two were named in connection with an investigation of the 35 riders, staff and doctors connected to a local pharmacist, Guido Nigrelli, who is based in Mariana Mantovana in Northern Italy. Prosecutor Antonio Condorelli refused to comment on Nigrelli’s alleged involvement.
The Italian sports daily La Gazzetta Dello Sport has reported that investigators are reviewing records involving Ballan, Cunego, Lampre manager Giuseppe Saronni, and others. Cunego, who is still a member of Lampre, has denied any involvement in doping.
Condorelli explained that the process was more about the trade in doping substances rather than the use of them, and added that professional cycling had only a secondary role in the network.
“The line of inquiry relates moreover to the commercialization of doping substances rather than who uses them, and extends to foreign shores, although I have not yet made contact with those authorities,” he said. “Our investigation into doping is not important for the professional sportsmen implicated but for the fact that the banned substances have been diffused amongst amateur cyclists.”
BMC manager Jim Ochowicz said that while BMC continues to regard its two riders as innocent, team policy requires that they be suspended. Ochowicz did not rule out the possibility that Ballan could return to competition even this weekend if the issue is resolved.
“We’re in the process of gathering further information. All scenarios are possible,” Ochowicz told the Gazzetta, regarding Ballan’s participation in Sunday’s race in France.
BMC Statement Regarding Italian Investigation
It has come to our attention that two of our riders, Alessandro Ballan and Mauro Santambrogio, are the subject of an investigation by Italian authorities stemming from incidents that took place more than two years ago – when they were members of the Lampre team and not affiliated with the BMC Racing Team.
The BMC Racing Team and its members were not aware of this investigation until a few days ago and we hope to obtain more information about the proceedings. However, we have already made the decision to withhold the two from competition, in accordance with the BMC Racing Team’s own policy and the UCI’s Code of Conduct (Section IX, Item 2). This should not be seen as pre-determination of guilt in connection with the Italian investigation. Both will have to personally address the accusations.