Pellizotti reacts angrily to ban; vows never to return to cycling

Franco Pellizotti reacted angrily to Tuesday’s decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport and said he would not mount a comeback when his two-year ban concludes.

Franco Pellizotti reacted angrily to Tuesday’s decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport and said he would not mount a comeback when his two-year ban concludes.

Pellizotti and compatriot Pietro Caucchioli were each given two-year bans in a joint decision released Tuesday by CAS, seen by many as a strong confirmation of the UCI’s biological passport program.

Both riders were banned using parameters from blood controls. Italian officials, however, had cleared Pellizotti last fall, saying there was not enough clear-cut evidence that he manipulated his blood.

CAS, however, confirmed two-year bans for both. The ruling also disqualified Pellizotti’s results from May 2009, meaning that he will lose his third place from that year’s Giro and his stage victory and polka-dot climber’s jersey from the 2009 Tour de France. He was also issued a fine of 115,000 euros.

Speaking to the Spanish cycling website Ciclismo a Fondo, Pellizotti said he was a “victim” of an unfair system and said he would not mount a comeback after fulfilling his ban. He could return to competition in May 2012.

“I leave it all behind, I don’t want to know anything more of cycling,” Pellizotti said. “Not because of my age or for the time, even though it’s two years, it’s because I am tired. Even if I came back, cycling would still be the same, poorly managed, with the leadership continuing to do what they want, applying rules as they wish. I was hoping for a lot, I had a lot of patience. They had me waiting one year without racing, now they want me to wait another two. Even though it’s not 100 percent, it’s all but sure I will not come back as a cyclist. I don’t even want to watch the races.”

Pellizotti’s case was a major test for the biological passport program and the ruling will give the UCI more confidence to move forward when deciding to impose racing sanctions based on passport parameters.

In Caucchioli’s case, CAS gave a firm confirmation to the UCI’s biological passport as a tool to issue racing bans, writing: “With the assistance of the experts appointed by the parties, the CAS Panel has reviewed in detail the biological passport program applied by the UCI and has found that the strict application of such program could be considered as a reliable means of detecting indirect doping methods.”

There was no immediate reaction from Caucchioli, who was among the first riders banned under the passport program in 2009.

Pellizotti was banned just before the start of the 2010 Giro, but last fall, Italian officials ruled that there was not enough convincing evidence to warrant a racing ban in Pellizotti’s case.

The 33-year-old was hopeful to return to racing this year and even had a preliminary agreement to return to Movistar, but the UCI challenged the ruling to CAS.

“I don’t know what to say. I feel cheated. Honestly, I hoped that CAS was not going to accept the appeal and everything was going to end there, that I could return to racing, but unfortunately it didn’t work out like that,” Pellizotti continued. “I am disillusioned with this sport and with justice. I cannot accept a ban, but what can I do? This is cycling, the leaders of the sport do what they want to do and they will keep doing it. They’re powerful, they have a lot of force, no one can say anything against them. Alone, there’s nothing I can do.”