The Italian cycling federation (FCI) will continue with its policy of refusing to select riders with previous doping offences for the national team in spite of the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s rejection of a similar provision that had been put in place by the International Olympic Committee.
CAS ruled on Thursday that handing additional lifetime Olympic bans to athletes who had been suspended for six months or more was “invalid and unenforceable” and did not comply with the WADA code.
But FCI president Renato Di Rocco rejected the idea that the CAS ruling could now force a rethink of his policy, pointing out that the selection of the Italian national team was a matter for the federation and its coaches.
“We will continue not to select dopers. The blue jersey is handed out at our discretion,” Di Rocco told ANSA. “We will continue with our project, which has changed the credibility of cycling and has helped bring about generational change.”
The FCI policy meant that a number of riders, including Ivan Basso, Danilo Di Luca, Alessandro Petacchi, Riccardo Riccò and Michele Scarponi were ineligible for selection for the world championships and also unable to compete in the national championships. Italy's men endured their worst Worlds since 1983 in Copenhagen last month, with Daniele Bennati (13th) their highest finisher.
Di Rocco said that the CAS ruling “changes nothing” and maintained that the FCI stance was similar to that of the British Olympic Association (BOA), which bars athletes with past offences from representing the country at the Olympics, including David Millar. It remains to be seen if the BOA policy is challenged in the wake of the CAS ruling.
“There won’t be modifications on our part,” Di Rocco said. “We will continue with our rationale. We have adhered to IOC policy based on what the English committee (BOA) did.”
Di Rocco’s statement was supported by Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) president Gianni Petrucci, who said that the FCI’s actions were in tune with CONI policy.
“We certainly won’t be the ones to tell Di Rocco to turn back,” Petrucci said, according to Tuttobici, and also told Sky Italia: “We want to continue on our path. How can an athlete who has discredited Italian sport wear our country’s colours again?”
The Italian riders’ association (ACCPI) has been a vocal opponent of the FCI’s policy, however, and said that the CAS ruling has added weight to its argument. “The ACCPI hopes that the federal council [of the FCI] will reflect on the measure and open dialogue with its associates,” read a statement issued on Friday.