Petacchi: I remain a winner

Alessandro Petacchi may be under suspension until later this year but he maintains that he has been...

Alessandro Petacchi may be under suspension until later this year but he maintains that he has been treated unfairly. The Italian sprint sensation was handed a suspension by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on May 6 and late last week his Milram squad announced it would part ways with the sprinter.

"My case is extremely weird," said Petacchi. "CAS concluded that I never tested positive.

"I have not cheated or undermined the rules," he added. "I just had problems breathing."

CAS concluded that Petacchi did not cheat or abuse his asthma medication Salbutamol, but that he was nevertheless in breach of UCI anti-doping regulations. It ordered him suspended for one year, with two months suspended. The ban runs from November 1, 2007, to August 31, 2008.

Despite being 34 years of age the Italian says he has no plans of quitting the sport. Petacchi has won multiple stages of the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana during his career, which started with Scrigno in 1996.

"There has been a lot of wrong done by me, but I have not once thought about my retirement," Petacchi said. "This is the darkest period of my career. If a team pulls me out of this hole, I will remain grateful. I remain a winner."

The 34 year-old had an Abbreviated Therapeutic Use Exemption (ATUE) for Salbutamol, which allowed him to use three doses of 200mg per day. On May 23 of last year, after winning the Giro's stage to Pinerolo, he underwent a doping control which showed that he had Salbutamol in a concentration of 1352 ng/ml, above the allowed limit of 1000 ng/ml.

The disciplinary committee of the Italian Cycling Federation (FCI) on July 24 ruled that this was not a violation of anti-doping rules and refused to sanction him. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) appealed that decision to the CAS.

The team's sponsor, Nordmilch AG, supported the team's action. "Our position is clear: We explicitly disapprove of any kind of doping. We want clean sports and performance on a natural basis," Martin Mischel, Chief Sales and Marketing Officer said in a statement released Friday evening. "We have discussed the present judgement against Alessandro Petacchi distinctly with the team management and approve of the resulting separation of Team Milram from Alessandro Petacchi. The consistent compliance of the mutually passed anti-doping course is an important pillar of our sponsorship agreement."

Petacchi attended the Giro d'Italia's 10th stage yesterday. The Italian was supposed to contest the race with Milram however the CAS findings and his resulting dismissal prevented him from taking part.

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