CAS said Di Luca deserved to be suspended, but declined to lengthen the penalty.

CAS said Di Luca deserved to be suspended, but declined to lengthen the penalty.

Photo: AFP (file photo)

The International Court of Arbitration for Sport on Wednesday upheld the three-month suspension of 2007 Giro d’Italia winner Danilo Di Luca for his relationship with the doctor at the center of the “Oil for Drugs” scandal.

The arbitrator assigned to the case rejected Di Luca’s appeal of the suspension ? served at the end of last year ? noting that there was ample evidence to support allegations that he had worked with Dr. Carlo Santuccione in 2004.

The court, however, also rejected a request by the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) that Di Luca’s suspension be extended to two years on the grounds that CONI raised new issues in the appeal as the basis for the requested extension.

While CAS appeals are normally heard by a three-member panel, both sides had agreed to the appointment of a single arbitrator, Luigi Fumagalli, ahead of the March 20 hearing in Milan.

Last fall, CONI’s top sports doping court, the Giudice di Ultima Istanza in Materia di Doping (GUI), handed the one-time ProTour leader a three-month suspension for his alleged links to Santuccione. The doctor, who was known as “the chemist” and subject of an Italian police investigation of allegations that he had established a nation-wide sports doping program. In 2004, a coordinated series of police raids resulted in the seizure of doping products and transfusion records, but the investigation has since moved slowly. CAS prosecutors offered police records and wiretaps that they said showed regular contact between Di Luca and Santuccione in 2004. The cyclist didn’t deny the contact, but claimed Santuccione had been his family doctor since childhood.

Fumagalli said evidence provided by CONI showed Di Luca’s “frequent medical encounters” with Santuccione constituted a violation of Italy’s national anti-doping regulations. When Di Luca filed his appeal of the suspension, CONI attorneys filed a counter-claim, citing article 2.2 of the World Anti-Doping Code as reason to suspend the cyclist for two years.

Fumagalli, however, ruled that since the WADA code was never raised in the original GUI case brought against Di Luca and, therefore, did not fall within the scope of the appeal.

Last month, Di Luca was cleared of charges related to an alleged doping violation at the 2007 Giro d’Italia, which he won. Authorities said a laboratory analysis showed unusually low hormone levels — described as “those of a child” — in a sample after the stage to the top of Monte Zoncolan. The results, said prosecutors, indicated that Di Luca was employing techniques to cover-up doping.

The charge against Di Luca represented something of a departure from traditional laboratory analysis, in that the rider was charged on the basis of abnormal readings rather than on the presence of a banned substance or its metabolites. The GUI, however, rejected the case and Di Luca is working to resurrect his career.

“I have suffered a lot during the last year during which I have tried to avoid a lot of the criticism,” Di Luca said last month. “Now I’m back in a happy mood. ”