The Italian Olympic Committee’s court of last instance acquitted defending Giro d’Italia champion Danilo Di Luca of doping charges on Wednesday.
Prosecutors representing the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) had been seeking a two-year suspension for Di Luca after he returned an “anomalous sample” following the 17th stage of last year’s Giro in May. Had he been found guilty of a violation, his Giro title, too, would have been negated.
“Finally justice has been served,” Di Luca said. “It’s true I lost a year of my life but now I’m only thinking about riding and winning. Victories are the best cure for unhappiness.
“I have suffered a lot during the last year during which I have tried to avoid a lot of the criticism. Now I’m back in a happy mood. “
And on doping allegations, Di Luca added: “There was no proof and there could not have been any.”
The one-time ProTour leader was already handed a three-month ban this fall for his alleged links to the “Oil for Drugs” scandal, a four-year-old Italian investigation triggered by allegations that Dr. Carlo “the chemist” Santuccione 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. Last year, evidence suggested that Di Luca was tied to Santuccione, who the cyclist claimed had been his family doctor since his childhood.
Officials then charged Di Luca with a doping violation related to the Giro, after analysis showed unusually low hormone levels — described as “those of a child” — in a sample after the stage to the top of Monte Zoncolan.
Earlier this month, the court delayed its decision to allow three scientists to further evaluate the sample. On Wednesday, the court ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prove a violation.
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 World Anti-Doping Agency and the UCI have the option of appealing the decision to the International Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Agence France Press contributed to this report