Alessandro Ballan has been summoned to appear before the Italian Olympic Committee’s Anti-Doping (CONI) tribunal next month – to respond to charges alleging the practice of "blood doping" as it relates to the Mantova-based police investigation.
CONI’s anti-doping prosecutor has recommended a two-year suspension for the former world champion, citing article 2.2 of the World Anti-Doping Agency code, which forbids the "Use or attempted use by an athlete of a prohibited substance or a prohibited method."
The Italian rider is alleged to have undergone performance enhancing blood transfusions during the 2009 season, but according to his statement in the Gazzetta dello Sport last week – he’s claims that he had only undergone ozone treatment to aid in his recovery from Cytomegalovirus.
However, the method that he underwent, involved the withdrawal of blood, and it’s subsequent re-infusion – which is prohibited by the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) code. The WADA code forbids any form of blood transfusion.
"I did an infinite number of controls and my biological passport speaks clearly. Do you think it’s right that I’ve been massacred because of this?" Balln told Gazzetta.
Pharmacist Guido Nigrelli and doctor Fiorenzo Egeo Bonazzi have also been called before the tribunal – to answer to charges that they participated, or attempted therein, in the trafficking and administration of prohibited substance and/or methods. The CONI prosecutor has recommended life bans for both of them.
The initial investigation stems from Lampre’s ties to the Mantova based Nigrelli back in 2008 and 2009. Ballan, Nigrelli and Bonazzi are among 27 riders and staff from the Lampre team, who have been implicated in the police investigation – and are set to face trial on December 10th.
Among the 27 people who will go on trial are Ballan, Damiano Cunego, Mauro Santambrogio and Marzio Bruseghin, as well as Lampre manager Giuseppe Saronni and directeurs sportifs Maurizio Piovani and Fabrizio Bontempi.
News of Ballan’s implication first broke in April 2010, when his new team BMC temporarily suspended him from racing and later reinstated him. In 2011, Gazzetta dello Sport published further evidence of Ballan’s involvement, including phone transcriptions of conversations about blood transfusions between Ballan and Nigrelli, and between Nigrelli and Bonazzi.
Ballan and his teammate Mauro Santambrogio – who since tested positive test for EPO while at Vini Fantini-Selle Italia this year – were again temporarily suspended in May 2011 by BMC.
To wit, they would be “held out of competition pending further details.” Yet a month later, the pair was reactivated because the team said it had “never been notified by any authorities regarding these alleged actions and conversations.”
General manager Jim Ochowicz denied that BMC’s handling of the matter was inconsistent. “I don’t see any contradiction at all,” he told the media back in May of 2011.
When further developments in the Mantova case arose in 2012 and 2013, BMC opted not to take further action against Ballan. However, he missed most of the 2013 season due to injuries sustained in a training crash last December.
Following the CONI prosecutor’s request for a two-year ban for Ballan last week, BMC said: “At this time, no decision to remove him from active status has been made.”
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