The BMC Racing Team has announced on Friday morning that Alessandro Ballan and Mauro Santambrogio will not be racing pending the outcome of the Mantova police investigation, an anti-doping investigation currently being held in Italy.
The team management, represented by team president Jim Ochowicz, announced in a press release that the squad decided to put both Ballan and Santambrogio on inactive status until the matter is resolved.
"It has come to our attention that two of our riders, Alessandro Ballan and Mauro Santambrogio, are the subject of an investigation by Italian authorities stemming from incidents that took place more than two years ago - when they were members of the Lampre team and not affiliated with the BMC Racing Team," the team said.
"The BMC Racing Team and its members were not aware of this investigation until a few days ago and we hope to obtain more information about the proceedings. However, we have already made the decision to withhold the two from competition, in accordance with the BMC Racing Team's own policy and the UCI's Code of Conduct (Section IX, Item 2). This should not be seen as pre-determination of guilt in connection with the Italian investigation. Both will have to personally address the accusations."
The decision means that former world champion Ballan, who was planned to race Paris-Roubaix this Sunday, will miss out on the event. A replacement rider has not yet been announced.
Cyclingnews caught up with Ballan immediately after the news broke, and found out the rider hadn't been notified yet by the team. "I don’t really want to say anything," Ballan said on the phone. "I haven't heard anything from the team since last night. I'll just respect the decision of the team because they pay my wages."
In the Mantova investigation, the Italian Tour of Flanders winner is believed to have ties to Guido Nigrelli, the pharmacist at the centre of the investigation. Nigrelli has admitted this, but consistently denies having provided anyone with performance-enhancing substances, saying all he did was "threshold tests, advice on nutrition and recovery, homeopathic stuff."
On Friday, BMC president Ochowicz also gave a statement to the Gazzetta dello Sport, saying that the team management continued its internal examination of Ballan's past, and added, "We didn't know who his coach was."
Stay tuned for more details on Cyclingnews.