The Italian Olympic Committee's (CONI) anti-doping prosecutor has recommended a three-year ban for Danilo Di Luca, who tested positive for the EPO variant CERA in two separate controls at this year's Giro d'Italia.
The CONI announced today that it has tacked on an additional 12 months to the standard two-year ban in its recommendation "for aggravating circumstances" under the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code article 10.6.
The rule, introduced this year, allows for additional punishment up to four years. A prompt confession would have, by the rule, allowed Di Luca to escape the additional sanction but the rider continues to assert his innocence.
The agency also intends to hold Di Luca to the International Cycling Union (UCI) rule which fines riders one year's salary for a positive doping control, as well as the costs of the results management and B-sample analysis allowed under UCI anti-doping article 275.
Di Luca is confident his lawyers can prove that the two samples, taken May 20 and 28 at the Giro d'Italia, showed false positives, and he will be cleared to race next year's event.
"I am certain that I will race the next Giro d'Italia," Di Luca said in August. "I'm ready to wager. I have not taken anything, and there is a possibility, without a doubt, that I will be acquitted."
Di Luca is not only facing a three-year ban from the sport, but also a criminal case for violating Italy's anti-doping laws. His lawyers, Ernesto de Toni and Flavia Tortorella, plan to challenge the testing method used by the French laboratory, but also hypothesized that the positive tests were the result of a conspiracy.
"There were people who talked about Di Luca's positive before the test results came out," de Toni told La Gazzeta dello Sport. "It's all a bit suspect. Danilo said he was subjected to six controls in the Giro, and only two were positive - why?" If the values from May 28 were positive, he asked, why was there no confirmation in subsequent checks?
Di Luca offered his own theory in a press conference earlier this year. "The UCI knows what it wants. In cycling, it's always first the hammer, then an apology. It always happens to me before Worlds - and this time the course was tailored for me," said Di Luca.
The Italian previously served a three-month suspension for involvement in the 'Oil for Drugs' doping scandal, and was not allowed to race the 2007 World Championships in Stuttgart while the case was under consideration.