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Leonardo Bertagnolli (Lampre-ISD) in the time trial.
Italian retires as news breaks
In a statement released on Wednesday afternoon, the UCI said that Bertagnolli “shall be accorded the right to the presumption of innocence until a final decision has been made on this matter.”
Bertagnolli had been due to appear before the Italian Olympic Committee in Rome on Wednesday to discuss allegations that he was a client of the controversial Dr. Michele Ferrari. On Tuesday, it was announced that the hearing had been postponed at the rider’s request.
On Wednesday afternoon, just prior to the UCI's publication of the news, Lampre-ISD released a statement announcing that Bertagnolli had decided to retire after the Italian Road Championships on Saturday. The team claimed that the 34-year-old, who was not picked to ride the Tour de France, had already intimated his decision to retire at the beginning of the season.
“In agreement with the staff of Lampre, I’ve decided that the Italian championships would be the last race of my career,” Bertagnolli said, according to the Lampre statement. “I thank [Giuseppe] Saronni and the Galbusera family for having welcomed me in my final years as a professional, and naturally all of my previous managers and sponsors, who have always supported me, and shared happy moments with me.”
In a further statement released later on Wednesday afternoon, Lampre-ISD distanced itself from Bertagnolli, claiming that the contested blood values on his biological passport date from 2008 and 2009, before he joined the team.
The squad underlined that it had noted “with surprise that […]the potential violations dated back to the period 2008 and 2009, when he was not in the blue-fuchsia team.” Furthermore, Lampre-ISD noted that “no anomalies were detected in all the blood exams performed within the internal monitoring program that the team performed in cooperation with Mapei Sport Center in 2011 and 2012 (when Bertagnolli was a member of Lampre-ISD) and in the biological passport exams that were performed in the same period.”
Bertagnolli joined Lampre-ISD from Androni Giocattoli ahead of the 2011 season. The Italian's greatest success came in 2009, when he won a stage of the Giro d'Italia into Faenza.
Bertagnolli is the first rider to be snared by the UCI’s biological passport since May 2010, when the governing body opened disciplinary proceedings against Franco Pellizotti, Jesus Rosendo Prado and Tadej Valjavec.
While Prado ultimately escaped a ban, both Pellizotti and Valjavec were ultimately handed two-year bans. Pellizotti recently returned to action for Androni-Venezuela and was crowned Italian champion at the weekend.