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Igor Astarloa calls his suspension ‘ridiculous’

Now retired, former world champion Igor Astarloa says it's 'ridiculous' to suspend him based on alleged anomalies in his blood profile

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Igor Astarloa ─ the former world champion who was banned two years Wednesday despite having retiried at the end of the 2009 season ─ called the UCI’s decision “ridiculous.”

Astarloa was formally banned for two years and fined €35,000 on Wednesday by the UCI for what the governing body called “anomalies” in his biological passport.

“It appears to me absurd,” Astarloa told the Basque newspaper Deia. “I stopped racing after the Vuelta a Asturias in 2009, but it appears that this sport doesn’t leave you at peace even when you’re retired. I could care less, because I am not even racing anymore and that they don’t leave me alone doesn’t worry me, but it annoys me that they continue with this because, above all, it’s not fair.”

The ex-world champ, now 34, ran afoul with the UCI in 2009 when he was among five riders singled out for irregular test results in its biological passport program. He left Milram in 2008 after similar anomalies in internal blood tests, but reached an out-of-court settlement with the now-defunct German-based team and moved to the modest Amica Chips squad in 2009, which folded mid-season with financial problems.

Astarloa said he’s been unfairly singled out and said it’s not worth trying to fight the allegations in court “because it doesn’t do any good and it’s very costly.”

“I did thousands of controls, everywhere, at any time, and I never tested positive,” Astarloa continued. “And the fine of 35,000 euros? That’s ridiculous. How am I going to pay part of a salary that I never received? The UCI knows full well that neither me nor anyone else on the team were paid and that’s why the team folded.”

Astarloa’s comments come a day after he formally banned by the UCI.

“The International Cycling Union (UCI) announces that following its request for proceedings against the Spanish rider Igor Astarloa Askasibar for a breach of the Anti-Doping Rules on the basis of his biological passport,” the UCI said in a statement released Wednesday, “the Disciplinary Commission of the Spanish Cycling Federation (RFEC) has decided to sanction the rider by a two-year suspension from 26 November 2010 and €35.000 fine.”

Astarloa was among five riders named in the first wave of sanctions based on the biological passport testing program, introduced the year before in 2008. Others singled out were fellow Spaniards Ruben Lobato and Ricardo Serrano as well as Italians Pietro Caucchioli and Francesco De Bonis.

The biological passport has come under fire from some quarters who believe it should be used as a tool to fight doping by monitoring riders’ blood levels, but should not be used as the lone factor to impose racing bans.

In October, Franco Pellizotti was cleared by Italian authorities after the UCI recommended a two-year ban following irregular controls of biological markers by the Italian rider.

Other riders, however, have been handed suspensions based on the biological passport, including Italians Caucchioli and De Bonis.