By Susan Westemeyer
The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) announced this morning that Italian Alessandro Petacchi would be suspended for one year for having tested positive for an asthma medication during the 2007 Giro d'Italia. It ruled that the Team Milram sprinter did not use the Salbutamol – an asthma drug – as doping but for medicinal purposes. Since the sprinter did not race for two months after the positive test on May 23, 2007, those two months were removed from his ban. The ban will run from November 1, 2007 to August 31, 2008.
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 d'Italia'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 CAS found that Petacchi "failed to show that the Salbutamol concentration ... was the consequence of him inhaling Salbutamol in accordance with his ATUE". However, it also found that although the finding was caused by Petacchi taking too much of the medication, it "was not taken with the intention of enhancing his performance".
"Considering that the athlete bears no significant fault or negligence, the CAS panel has fixed the period of his ineligibility to one year," announced CAS. In addition to the suspension, all of his results from the 2007 Giro d'Italia are to be disqualified and he is to return any medals, points and prizes won during the Giro. Petacchi won three stages, including the stage to Pinerolo. "[Petacchi can] retain all other competitive results between 23 May 2007 and 31 October 2007," said CAS.
The sprinter's future remains unclear, with Milram spokesman Stephan Flock telling Cyclingnews that the team would not have a comment at this time. "First we must see the written decision," said Flock. "After that, there will be a meeting at the highest level, including team manager Gerry van Gerwen and Martin Mischel, head of marketing for sponsor Nordmilch. When a decision is made, then we will release a statement, as quickly as possible."
Petacchi is currently suffering from a severe case of bronchitis, which kept him out of this year's Giro d'Italia squad for Milram. His last race was the Presidential Tour of Turkey, April 13 to 20, where he won two stages.