By Gregor Brown
Italian Danilo Di Luca is at another turning point in his career, facing a two-year suspension if the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) has its way. The anti-doping branch of CONI announced on Wednesday that it was seeking a ban for the 32 year-old rider from Abruzzo related to a test taken following stage 17 of the 2007 Giro d'Italia. Di Luca finds the new action by CONI "absurd" and remains confident that he will be vindicated.
The rider known as 'The Killer' ignited tifosi in 2005 when he won Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and finished fourth in the Giro d'Italia, before later going on to win the first ProTour competition. His potential had been confirmed and he was not considered a true leader in his new Liquigas team. Last year, he fulfilled a dream by winning the Giro d'Italia, but that is when his troubles began.
Over the off-season, while searching for a new team, he was suspended for three-months for frequenting Doctor Carlo Santuccione in relating to the Oil for Drugs affair. He signed for LPR Brakes and started racing with the Giro di Reggio Calabria; however, the test taken following his fourth place finish on Monte Zoncolan caused problems.
"I was convinced that the CONI prosecutor would have shelved the case," said Di Luca to La Gazzetta dello Sport Wednesday evening. "However, they deferred me [to be suspended]. Does it seem correct to you? In the courts you can't be condemned without proof. However, this sporting justice does not take into account anything, neither experts nor testimonies."
If Di Luca is given the two-year ban – based on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code 2.2 – the Giro could decide to strip his 2007 maglia rosa.
"There is a stubbornness towards me, now it is evident. ... It is clear that in this story we have arrived to the point of absurdity."
Di Luca's spirits are kept high, and he believes he will be vindicated. "I have given my all to cycling since I was eight years old," he continued. "However, in life there are not only races. I will decide when to stop, not the others. ... I still have faith that this all will be cleared in front of the expert panel [Giudice di ultima istanza] of CONI."
He has received support from the Italian cycling federation (FCI) President, Renato Di Rocco, who confirmed to Cyclingnews that he visited Di Luca at his home in Pescara yesterday afternoon.
September 26, 2007: Di Luca authorises the International Cycling Union (UCI) to give CONI permission to carry out testing on its Giro controls.
November 7: The CONI anti-doping prosecutor is notified the hormone levels of its test vary from the one the UCI carried out on May 30.
December 6: Di Luca is heard by CONI.
January 15, 2008: CONI's prosecutor receives the control results.