Team BMC has pulled Alessandro Ballan and Mauro Santambrogio from racing after new information was brought to light regarding the two riders’ involvement with the ongoing Mantovo investigation in Italy.
Both riders had been scheduled to take part in the Giro d’Italia which starts on Saturday.
The team’s General Manager Jim Ochowicz said in press release that, “new information received, along with consideration of the team's anti-doping policy and the UCI's Code of Conduct, means the two will be held out of competition pending further details.
“Both riders have been cooperating fully with the investigation, and, as we did last year, we will respect their presumption of innocence and we expect them to continue their full support to the authorities.”
Ochowicz added that the team will monitor the investigation and both riders will have to personally address any accusations on their own.
Ballan confirmed to Cyclingnews that other evidence against him had emerged during the investigation but said he plans to contest it when he sees the pre-trial magistrate on May 12. Only after this date will the magistrate decide if Ballan should go on trial.
“I found out today and I’ve just been told by Jim Ochowicz about the statement the team has issued. There’s not much else I can say. I’m employed by them and so it’s right I respect their rules and their decision,” Ballan told Cyclingnews.
“It’s a real pity because I’ve been preparing well for the Giro and I was looking forward to it. I’ve got to speak to my lawyers about my defence but we’ll contest them on May 12.”
Ballan and Santambrogio were among 32 riders initially named in the investigation but were cleared to race the Spring Classics by the team last month. At the time BMC stated that they had received no information from investigators in Italy despite the head of the prosecution accusing Ballan of undergoing an autologous blood transfusion in 2009.
The wide-ranging investigation was focused around the activities of Mariana Mantovana-based pharmacist Guido Nigrelli and his involvement with the Lampre team, and with phone taps taking place between late 2008 and July 2009.
When Ballan’s involvement in the Mantova investigation was first made public twelve months ago, his BMC team removed him from its roster ahead of Paris-Roubaix, before subsequently allowing him to return in May.
However on the eve of Paris-Roubaix this year and with Ballan a strong contender – he went on to finish sixth – Ochowicz told Cyclingnews that “I haven’t seen it and it’s just not something I can comment on. It’s just some article in a newspaper.”