MILAN (VN) — Lampre Merida’s Diego Ulissi had his return to racing cut short. After racing Tuesday in the Coppa Bernocchi, Lampre-Merida announced that Ulissi would not take part in further races until a disciplinary hearing runs its course.
The Italian turned in an anti-doping positive during the Giro d’Italia, which could potentially lead to a two-year ban. The Tuscan won two stages at the Italian grand tour but failed a test for Salbutamol and was later pulled from the team on June 25.
“The head of team medical staff, Doctor Carlo Guardascione, gave Diego Ulissi the authorization to return to racing,” Lampre said in a statement.
Guardascione and Lampre decided to race Ulissi “after having carefully examined the documents made available by the lawyer of Ulissi, [Rocco] Taminelli, and considering the articulated rules and regulations of Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC), of which Lampre-Merida is member.”
It added that it is “waiting for further evidence, currently still late, from the UCI and WADA” and that Ulissi will also race the Italy’s Coppa Agostoni on Wednesday and the Tre Valli Varesine on Thursday.
However, on Tuesday after the race, the team said in a press release that the UCI notified Ulissi it recommended disciplinary action and added, “Respecting the internal sanitary rules of the team and the rules of MPCC … Ulissi won’t take part in the next races.
After his successful Giro, Ulissi raced in the Tour de Slovénie from June 19-22. Since then, he has been sitting at home while the authorities decide on his case.
Lampre announced June 25 that Ulissi tested positive after stage 11 at the Giro on May 21. He had already won a pair of stages, and the day after his test he took second in the Barolo time trial. He abandoned the Giro after stage 17 while on antibiotics to fight a sore throat and a fever.
Ulissi was using an inhaler with Salbutamol spray for asthma and, according to Lampre, he took two puffs ahead of the Savona stage and a paracetamol from the race doctor after crashing. The team explained that a urine test showed him with 1,900 nanograms per milliliter of Salbutamol, nearly double the limit of 1,000ng/ml.
The UCI and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) only require a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for the asthma drug if more than 1,600mg is used, or around 14 to 17 puffs.
Salbutamol made headlines during the Critérium du Dauphiné in June when television cameras showed 2013 Tour de France champion Chris Froome (Sky) using an inhaler ahead of a mountaintop finish.
Ulissi and his hired expert argue that the crash caused a jump in values and resulting positive. However, after nearly three months, Ulissi is waiting on the UCI to either drop the case or send the files to Swiss Cycling — he lives near Lugano — so that it will open a case. Lampre, meanwhile, after looking over the MPCC rules, decided to race Ulissi.
“In spite of everything I feel stronger,” Ulissi told Il Tirreno. “While suffering, I took a major step forward in terms of physical and mental maturity. In the first month, I was really on the ground, then I bounced back well with the support of my family.”
He still could face a major step backwards since today the UCI passed the case to Swiss Cycling’s anti-doping committee, which could issue him the maximum two-year ban.
Cyclists like Leonardo Piepoli have been pardoned in the past but others, like Alessandro Petacchi, served bans for over-use. Petacchi said he accidentally took too many puffs after a positive test at the 2007 Giro, but still served a nine-month ban.