Alessandro Ballan has lodged an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport against the two-year suspension he was handed by the Italian Olympic Committee in January for a blood doping violation.
Ballan’s infraction dates from the spring of 2009 and was first revealed by phone taps carried out by police during the Mantova-based investigation into the activities of pharmacist Guido Nigrelli and his links with the Lampre team.
During a hearing in Rome in January, Ballan claimed that he had not had a performance-enhancing blood transfusion in 2009, but had undergone ozone therapy in order to treat cytomegalovirus. CONI’s anti-doping tribunal rejected his argument, however, and banned him from competition until January 2016.
“I underwent ozone therapy at the time, but I was ill and I had been withheld from racing for 45 days by my team doctor,” Ballan told Tuttobici on Tuesday, confirming his appeal to CAS. “I’ll only say that the penalty inflicted on me is an enormity. I know that right is on my side and above all, I still believe in sporting justice.”
Ballan was the reigning world champion in 2009 but missed the classics and Giro d’Italia, citing cytomegalovirus. He returned to action in time to win the Tour of Poland in the summer, and then signed for BMC for the 2010 season.
Ballan’s implication in the Mantova inquiry was first made public in April 2010, and he was briefly withheld from racing by BMC on that occasion and once again in May 2011, when it was first publicly alleged that he had undergone a blood transfusion.
BMC terminated Ballan’s contract in January of this year following CONI’s decision to sanction him for a doping offence.
The Italian will be 36 years old by the time his ban comes to an end in 2016, but he told Tuttobici that he has already returned to training. “The bike has given me a lot and I still feel that I can give something,” Ballan said. “One thing is certain: I don’t want to leave a world that I love deeply in this way.”