Danilo Di Luca was suspended for three months yesterday for his involvement in the 2004 Oil for Drugs case. The winner of this year's Giro d'Italia is prohibited from competing until January 17, however he assured that he will appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and that the case is not about doping.
"There will be no Giro di Lombardia for me, there is not time to appeal to CAS," the 31 year-old from Abruzzo said to La Gazzetta dello Sport following yesterday's hearing in Rome. "I am very disappointed, yes. However, I believe that no one can place doubt on my success at the Giro d'Italia. ... Doping does not figure; I have not doped, and I won thanks to the natural characteristics given to me by my mother. I will continue to win. ... It is completely absurd; I don't have to pay for anything, not even one day."
Due to the hearings in Rome, Di Luca was unable to attend the funeral of Vito Taccone, who passed away on Monday. "However, I will go and leave a maglia rosa [from the Giro d'Italia] on his grave – we were very close," he continued. Taccone, winner of four stages in a row in the 1963 Giro and the 1961 Giro di Lombardia, was from the same region as Di Luca.
Di Luca was assured of his spot in the Italian Team Liquigas through the end of 2007. "This is not about doping; this is important. I have just talked with the president of Liquigas, Paolo Dal Lago... They have assured me my salary through December 31 – if it was doping it would be another story."
The Oil for Drugs case started during the 2004 Giro, when Di Luca rode for Saeco. May 26, Italy's Anti-Narcotics Group (NAS) raided several teams' hotels, however its search of riders who were allegedly linked with Doctor Carlo Santuccione did not yield evidence. This July, Di Luca was further linked to Santuccione via documents supplied by NAS that were published in the Italian press.
Di Luca hopes to have his contract for 2008 and beyond signed in November. "Tomorrow my agent will meet with [Giuseppe] Saronni, who is awaiting a response for a second team sponsor," he continued yesterday. "I don't believe that this absurd suspension could influence the negotiations. I want to have it all determined before November 4, when I go on my vacation."