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Ulissi to return at Basque Country following ban

Thanks to an existing contract with Lampre and an argument of "negligence," Diego Ulissi will return to racing at the Vuelta al País Vasco

Diego Ulissi, back from serving a reduced, nine-month racing ban, will return to action in April at the Vuelta al País Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country).

His Lampre-Merida team posted the news on its website Tuesday, announcing that team staffers and sponsors are all on board with the Italian’s return to competition.

As for the potential conflict with the team’s Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC) agreement? MPCC spokesperson Yvon Sanquer said, “They [MPCC] didn’t want to create legal difficulties for the teams over existing contracts.” Ulissi is in the middle of a two-year contract, which is why Lampre-Merida could not simply refuse to bring him back for 2015.

The 25-year-old popped positive for high levels of Salbutamol during the 2014 Giro d’Italia, where he won two stages before abandoning.

Ulissi’s failed test occurred after stage 11 of last year’s Giro. He won stages 5 and 8, but abandoned after stage 17 after suffering from bronchospasm. Ulissi was allowed to use an inhaler to treat his ailment during the race, but tests revealed that Ulissi had nearly double the allowed amount of salbutamol in his urine sample. The limit is 1000 ng/ml, but he had 1900 ng/ml.

Swiss authorities accepted Ulissi’s argument that he was negligent, but did not aim to improve his performance, and handed down a reduced, nine-month ban. Ulissi lives in southern Switzerland and races under a Swiss license.

That ban ends in late March, opening the door for Ulissi’s return to the Basque Country tour. Lampre officials also confirmed that he would race the Tour de Romandie ahead of a planned start at the Giro d’Italia.