BMC benches Alessandro Ballan, Mauro Santambrogio amid Italian inquiry

BMC benches Alessandro Ballan, Mauro Santambrogio as an Italian inquiry gains steam.

With an Italian doping investigation gaining steam, BMC Racing Team announced Monday evening it would sideline former world champion Alessandro Ballan and Italian teammate Mauro Santambrogio until matters are more precisely settled.

Santambrogio and Ballan are allegedly linked to an ongoing investigation known as the “Mantova affair” that is centered on several Lampre riders. Both formerly rode for Lampre before joining BMC.

BMC officials, who previously had resisted calls to sideline Ballan earlier this year, said Monday evening new information prompted the team to take action.

BMC president and general manager Jim Ochowicz said the two — who were not part of the BMC team when the investigation started – would be out of competition for an undetermined amount of time.

“Both riders have been cooperating fully with the investigation, and, as we did last year, we will respect their presumption of innocence and we expect them to continue their full support to the authorities,” a BMC team release stated. Ochowicz said the team will monitor the investigation and that both riders would have to personally address any accusations on their own.

Ballan and Santambrogio were sidelined in similar conditions last year when the investigation started to heat up in northern Italy last spring. Team officials later permitted Ballan to return to racing ahead of the Tour de Suisse and cleared Santambrogio to race the Giro when it appeared there was no wrongdoing.

BMC officials did not release what it characterized as “new information,” but it apparently was enough to put Ballan and Santambrogio back in the holding tank until further details emerge.

Italian authorities are investigating an alleged doping ring in northern Italy that includes many current and former riders from the Lampre outfit.