The Lampre-Merida team has hit back at the Mouvement Pour un Cyclisme Crédible (MPCC), insisting it has fully respected the rules of the voluntary anti-doping association by deciding to keep Diego Ulissi in its team and allow him to return to racing when his nine month ban ends in March.
Ulissi tested positive for elevated levels of Salbutamol during the 2014 Giro d'Italia and was eventually given a nine-month ban by the Swiss Olympic Committee. His ban ends on March 28 and he will return to action at the Tour of the Basque Country that begins on April 6.
The anti-doping test revealed that Ulissi had 1900 ng/ml of Salbutamol in his system, significantly higher than the 1000 ng/ml allowed by the UCI rules. He had declared the use of a Ventolin inhaler for bronchial spasms when undergoing the test, but struggled to explain such a high level of the drug. Ulissi has claimed that the Swiss Olympic Committee accepted that he acted negligently and not with the aim of improving his performance.
However Lampre-Merida is a member of the MPCC and the association issued a press release on Wednesday saying it was "waiting for the position of Lampre-Merida about the team's press release announcing Diego Ulissi's come back on the next Vuelta al Pais Vasco."
In the same press release the MPCC claimed that 81 per cent of all WorldTour and Professional Continental teams were now members and praised teams for respecting its core regulation, including "not to hire - within the two years following the suspension - riders found guilty of anti-doping rules violation and then suspended for at least six months by their national/international associations."
This seems to questions Lampre-Merida's decision but the team insisted in a terse statement that it has fully respected the MPCC rules.
"After having read today's press release from MPCC after the Board of Directors meeting which was held on the 11th of February 2015 and with this the consequences which were reported and valuated by the various media, the team expresses its dissatisfaction with the way in which the press release was reported," the statement reads.
"It is not acceptable that this type of message is communicated in this way, in other words that the team is under observation for the announcement of Ulissi returning to compete, over and above this the team has never received any direct contact from the organization."
"Ulissi returning to compete in the Team fully respects the MPCC rules and regulations, namely the article 4 which is mentioned in the press release."
"This rule is in fact applicable to the hiring of new riders: as Ulissi already holds a contract with the Team, therefore this rule does not apply to his case and for this we don't comprehend the necessity to clarify our position. Once again the Team has respected the rules and regulations of the MPCC, as we have always done in the past, strictly applying all the requests even though various situations have been to our disadvantage."
Last year the team stopped Chris Horner from defending his 2013 Vuelta a España success after the MPCC declared that his cortisol levels were too low.
Horner had been prescribed medication containing cortisone in order to try to recover from bronchitis he suffered at the Tour de France but following the voluntary MPC rules, Lampre-Merida did not allow him to start the Vuelta a Espana.