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King of the mountains Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas)
Pellizotti, Prado and Valjavec facing disciplinary action
The UCI has confirmed it has requested disciplinary proceedings to be opened against Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas-Doimo), Jesus Rosendo Prado (Andalucia-Cajasur) and Tadej Valjavec (Ag2r-La Mondiale) for apparent violation of the Anti-Doping Rules on the basis of the information provided by the blood profiles in their biological passports.
Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport first named Pellizotti mid-day on Monday but the news was only confirmed much later when the President of the Italian Cycling Federation Renato di Rocco named Pellizotti and then the UCI finally issued a statement.
The Liquigas-Doimo team refused to comment on the media reports but confirmed it would issue a statement on Tuesday. Pellizotti is expected to be replaced in the Liquigas-Doimo team for the Giro d'Italia by Vincenzo Nibali.
32-year-old Pellizotti finished second in the 2009 Giro d'Italia and was set to be joint leader of the Liquigas-Doimo team with Ivan Basso. On Saturday he finished third in the GP Larciano race in Tuscany, showing some first signs of form after a low-key early season. Last week Pellizotti joined Cadel Evans (BMC) and several other riders on a training ride on the course of the Plan des Corones mountain time trial stage of the Giro d'Italia. He won the Plan des Corones stage in the 2008 Giro d'Italia.
Valjavec has been a professional since 2000 and rode for Fassa Bortolo, Phonak and Lampre before joining Ag2r in 2008. He has won only a handful of races during his career but finished in the top 20 at the Tour de France in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Last year he finished ninth overall in the Giro d'Italia and led the Tour de Suisse for five days before losing the lead to eventual winner Fabian Cancellara.
28-year-old Jesus Rosendo Prado has been a member of the Andalucia-Cajasur squad since 2007. He is the second rider from the team to fall afoul of the UCI's anti-doping rules in a week. Teammate Manuel Vasquez Hueso was provisionally suspended for EPO last week.
According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Pellizotti was informed by the UCI that he was under investigation two months ago after an unusual blood value was detected at a test taken just before the 2009 Tour de France. Pellizotti went on to win the climber's polka-dot jersey at the Tour de France. Last year both Pellizotti and Nibali were accused of working with Italian doctor Michele Ferrari by Amore e Vita team owner Ivano Fanini. Both riders denied the link and threatened legal action.
UCI president Pat McQuaid revealed to Bloomberg in late February that a handful of riders had been asked to explain their blood values to the independent expert panel that examines the biological passport readings. "We see no other reason other than a possible potential doping reason," said McQuaid at the time.