ALGHERO, Italy (AFP) — The sport director of the only all-Italian team invited to the 100th Giro d’Italia said he fears Bardiani-CSF will be thrown out following a doping scandal involving two of its riders.
“It’s a possibility,” Stefano Zanatta told AFP prior to Friday’s opening stage between Alghero and Olbia on the island of Sardinia. Zanatta said he cried when news broke of the positive doping tests.
“That’s why we’re really angry. This has caused a lot of problems for all of us. Not just for the seven guys who are still here.”
Bardiani, a second-division team composed exclusively of up-and-coming Italians, was overjoyed several months ago when it was handed one of four wildcard invitations for the Italian grand tour.
On the eve of the race Thursday, shortly after a glitzy team presentation, Bardiani was left “shocked” after the UCI notified it that Stefano Pirazzi and Nicola Ruffoni had tested positive for banned growth hormones. In accordance with UCI rules, both riders are now suspended facing further investigation.
If their “B” samples are also positive, the entire team could be suspended for 15-45 days, which would end Bardiani’s Giro before the race finishes in Milan on May 28.
Pirazzi, 30, won the best climber’s competition at the 2013 Giro and won a stage to Vittorio Veneto in 2014. Ruffoni, 26, is in his fourth year as a professional.
Although both are suspected of using the same product, Zanatta played down suggestions they had colluded in the affair.
“No, they’re not [good friends],” Zanatta said. “One lives in Brescia, one lives in Roma. Pirazzi is quite a closed guy, not very expansive, while Ruffoni is a good guy, good company.
“But this isn’t important. Now we have a big problem for the team, for the sponsors, for the whole race.
“I’ve been working as a sports director for 20 years, I put my face to this project to develop a young Italian team, so for me it’s very hard.”
Asked what his emotions were on Thursday, Zanatta said: “I cried. In this moment, it’s possible that everyone’s talking badly about the team. That’s not good.
“The organizers believed in our project, a team of young Italian guys with an Italian sponsor.
“Cycling in Italy isn’t going really well. One thing we need is for more young Italian guys to be joining WorldTour teams.
“But like this, we go right back to the bottom step. I think there’s been a real change in mentality [in terms of doping], but obviously not sufficiently.”