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Expert suggests the UCI may have misinterpreted the blood values
After the International Cycling Union (UCI) announced this week that he was in apparent violation of the biological passport parameters, Franco Pellizotti and his team of specialists and lawyers have insisted there is nothing irregular with his blood values and claim the variations detected by the UCI could have been caused by dehydration.
Looking saddened but defiant as he spoke at a press conference in Milan on Tuesday afternoon, Pellizotti was convinced he can prove his innocence and questioned why he was named so close to the start of the Giro d'Italia.
"I would have liked to have been at another press conference, perhaps in Amsterdam…" he said according to Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
"If I think about all the sacrifices I've made and all the work I've done and all the times I've overlooked my family, and now I can't race. I'm not interested in talking about the rider I am but about the person I am. I want to come out of this clean because I'm convinced I am. I'm not worried but it's very annoying that I could be in Holland for the Giro. That's why it feels like it's all a joke."
Pellizotti's lawyer Rocco Taminelli and the Liquigas-Doimo team doctor, Roberto Corsetti both questioned how the UCI experts came to decide that the Italian rider should face disciplinary proceeding for breaking anti-doping rules.
They claimed that only two of the 22 values included in Pellizotti's Biological Passport caused concern and said that only three of the nine UCI medical experts had considered the values unusual. They revealed that the two irregular haemoglobin and reticulocytes values tests were done in November 2008, a month after Pellizotti had ended his season, and then on July 2 last year, just before the start of the Tour de France.
"We're not contesting the actual Biological Passport, It's the right instrument. But in this case it's been wrongly applied," Taminelli told Gazzetta dello Sport.
"The evidence is not an sure indication of doping," Corsetti said.
Pellizotti told the Sky Italia television channel: "I can't understand why they didn’t do other tests. If there were doubts, they should have tested me more often."
"I would have been one of the protagonists at the Giro d'Italia but nobody will give me back the Giro. If they'd told me month ago I'd have had time to race. They told me just two days before the Giro and so there's no time for me to defend myself. At this point I don't believe in cycling anymore."
Professor Giuseppe Banfi, one of the leading Italian haematologists, suggested the UCI experts had mistakenly interpreted the values.
"Pellizotti's values are very stable and the variations cannot be linked to fraudulent sporting behaviour," Banfi told La Repubblica. "A reasonable explanation for the values could be a loss of liquids."
While the riders competing in the Giro d'Italia gather in Amsterdam, Pellizotti will be working on his defence. He's been summoned to Rome on May 17 and will face a grilling from the Italian anti-doping inspectors, who will have all the evidence supplied by the UCI.
Whatever verdict the Italian Olympic Committee eventually issues, Pellizotti has the right to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland, who will have the final say on if the UCI Biological Passport results are enough to ban him for two years. Any eventual CAS decision will play a major role in the validity and long-term future of the Biological Passport as a means of fighting blood doping in sport.