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Giro d'Italia

Garzelli gets penalty for Giro drug test

A Swiss disciplinary committee on Friday handed down a suspension to Italian cyclist Stefano Garzelli after he failed a drugs test during this year’s Giro d’Italia. But the two-year penalty, which takes effect on Saturday, will be suspended after April 23, 2003, allowing the 29 year-old to take part in next year's Giro, the judge heading the committee, Henry Peter, said. Peter told AFP that the board had decided not to apply the full minimum two year ban for a first offence because Garzelli had no history of suspected doping, and the traces of the drug Probenecid found in the tests were

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By VeloNews Interactive wire services, Copyright AFP2002

Photo: AFP (file photo)

A Swiss disciplinary committee on Friday handed down a suspension to Italian cyclist Stefano Garzelli after he failed a drugs test during this year’s Giro d’Italia.

But the two-year penalty, which takes effect on Saturday, will be suspended after April 23, 2003, allowing the 29 year-old to take part in next year’s Giro, the judge heading the committee, Henry Peter, said.

Peter told AFP that the board had decided not to apply the full minimum two year ban for a first offence because Garzelli had no history of suspected doping, and the traces of the drug Probenecid found in the tests were minimal.

But he added that the penalty was a serious warning and “a sword of Damocles” hanging over the Italian rider if he resorted to doping.

“Objectively he is responsible,” Peter told AFP.

“It is a marginal case because we found very weak traces of Probenecid.”

“If he tries again, he would pay a heavy price and it would effectively be the end of his career,” Peter added. Garzelli, a Swiss resident, first tested positive for the banned drug Probenecid after winning the second stage of this year’s Giro, at Ans in Belgium on May 13. His second B sample also tested positive and he was removed from the race.

Probenecid is normally a prescription drug used to treat chronic gout, but can be used as an agent to mask the absorption of performance enhancing drugs, notably steroids, according to the Swiss Olympic committee’s anti-doping board.

It is outlawed by international sports bodies, but Peter noted that it had no threshold levels, allowing even the slightest traces to trigger a doping charge.

Garzelli claimed at a first hearing that poultry he ate was to blame for his testing positive for Probenecid.

Swiss Olympic, which deals with all doping cases involving Swiss-based sports federations, said Garzelli, who won the Giro in 2000, would face a probation period of five years from April 2003.

The Italian rider was also fined 50,000 Swiss francs (35,000 euros).

“He has a very serious sword of Damocles hanging over him, because he would face the original remaining penalty, and a second, more serious penalty, on another offence,” Peter said.

Under the board’s rules, the Italian rider has the right to appeal to the international Court of Arbitration of Sport.