Stevic facing lifetime ban in Italian case

Toyota-United rider Ivan Stevic is facing a lifetime ban by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) for use of a prohibited substance, possession of prohibited substances and illegal trafficking of prohibited substances dating back to 2004.

By Neal Rogers

Stevic promises to take the matter to CAS.

Stevic promises to take the matter to CAS.

Photo: Action Images, Kurt Jambretz

Toyota-United rider Ivan Stevic is facing a lifetime ban by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) for use of a prohibited substance, possession of prohibited substances and illegal trafficking of prohibited substances dating back to 2004.

As first reported on Cycling Fans Anonymous, the Serbian cyclist was implicated in the infamous Oil For Drugs scandal that also saw Italian riders Danilo Di Luca and Eddy Mazzoleni face suspensions.

As noted in CONI’s judgment, while riding as an amateur in Italy, Stevic was caught distributing and selling doping products received from Dr. Carlo Santuccione, head of the Oil for Drugs doping network.

According to CONI, a Florence Health and Welfare Group raided Stevic’s hotel on May 26, 2004, under the command of the local police. Several prohibited doping products were found in a refrigerator, including corticosteroids and Jintropin, a recombinant human growth hormone.

In November 2007 CONI’s anti-doping prosecutor requested that Santuccione be banned from associating with sportsmen for life.

However, Italian Riccardo Riccò, who tested positive for CERA at this summer’s Tour de France, told CONI prosecutors that he had received the blood booster from Santuccione, confirming that the Italian doctor was still active in the athletic community. Ricco was sentenced in October to an 18-month suspension for his doping offense, and an additional six months for his involvement with Santuccione.

Stevic, 28, did not appear at a pair of scheduled hearings with CONI, dated March 18, 2008 and May 30, 2008. On September 17 CONI sentenced him to a lifetime ban.

Stevic did not return email or voicemail messages left by VeloNews. Toyota-United team owner Sean Tucker told VeloNews that he had only learned of Stevic’s case on Monday, adding that Stevic is appealing the ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

“I spoke with Ivan yesterday about this,” Tucker said Wednesday. “Bottom line, this [sentence] is all news to him. Apparently CONI was sending all correspondence to his old hotel address in Italy from 2004 and he was totally unaware of this investigation until after he was convicted by CONI on September 17. He has since hired a lawyer and has filed an appeal with CAS to have this thrown out. According to Ivan, he spoke face to face with the president of the Serbian Cycling Federation on [November 3] and they too had received no correspondence regarding this matter.”

Tucker reiterated that no one involved with Toyota-United had any knowledge of either the 2004 raid or the 2008 proceedings until November 3.

“This all took place in May of 2004 and the best any of us can tell, there is literally nothing anywhere on the Web or otherwise until recently regarding Ivan in this matter.” Tucker said.

Tucker said Stevic told him his teammates, who had shared rooms at the hotel, had been away for a race and learned of the raid from the hotel manager upon their return.

“He said was not present when it happened, nor was he contacted in any way whatsoever for questioning, interviews, etc., by any local police, CONI or anyone in the days after the raid he only heard about,” Tucker said. “So other than hearing about the raid form the hotel owner/manager and others who were present that day, the next thing he heard was he was convicted four and a half years later and was and is in total shock and disbelief this could happen to anyone, let alone him.”

Tucker added that Stevic is suspended pending the outcome of his appeal with CAS.

Should CAS uphold CONI’s ruling, a lifetime ban would extend far beyond Italian borders. According to USADA chief executive officer Travis Tygart, Stevic — who holds a Serbian license — would be prohibited from any competition held under UCI jurisdiction, which encompasses any events sanctioned by any national governing bodies.

“In this case, because the violations occurred in Italy, even though he holds a Serbian license, CONI has jurisdiction to bring the case and to put in the sanction,” Tygart said. “That sanction would be under effect to any and all sport entities who are signatories under WADA code.”

USA Cycling chief operating officer Sean Petty told VeloNews that he’d just learned of Stevic’s suspension this week, and forwarded what he’d heard on to UCI anti-doping chief Anne Gripper. Gripper told Petty she was looking into the matter and in discussions with CONI officials.

Stevic came to the United States in 2005, winning a stage at the Sea Otter Classic and taking second overall at the Tour of the Gila while riding for the Aerospace Engineering-VMG team. He signed with Toyota-United for the 2006 season and rode for the team for three seasons. Career highlights for the two-time Olympian include the UCI “B” world championship in 2007, a stage win at the 2007 Tour de Georgia, and the overall win at the 2007 Nature Valley Grand Prix, where he also won a stage.