Ballan accused of undergoing blood transfusion

Alessandro Ballan (BMC) has been accused by investigators in Mantova of undergoing an autologous blood transfusion in 2009. According to reports in Italy, the former world champion is one of 32 people who could face charges following the conclusion of a lengthy inquiry, but his BMC team says that he will line up as normal at Paris-Roubaix on Sunday.

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.

Mantova public prosecutor Antonino Condorelli explained that Ballan was one of a number of people tailed by Italian police in that period, and he is accused of undergoing an illegal blood transfusion in Montichiari in 2009.

“Beyond the intercepted telephone calls, carabinieri from the NAS [the Italian anti-drug squad], carried out shadowing and ambush operations,” Condorelli told Corriere della Sera. “That is how we discovered that Alessandro Ballan would have undergone an auto-blood transfusion in a surgery in Montichiari, where a doctor, Fiorenzo Egeo Bonazzi, is also under investigation.”

Gazzetta dello Sport reports that the alleged transfusion took place a little before the 2009 Giro d’Italia, which Ballan subsequently did not ride. He was riding for Lampre as the reigning world champion at the time, and then signed for BMC ahead of the 2010 season.

When Ballan’s involvement in the Mantova investigation was first made public twelve months ago, his BMC team removed him from their roster ahead of Paris-Roubaix, before subsequently allowing him to return in May.

On Saturday morning, BMC confirmed to Cyclingnews that Ballan will line up in Paris-Roubaix this year in spite of the weighty accusations, as he has not been given formal notice of any charges pertaining to the investigation.

However, the public prosecutor Condorelli suggested that charges are likely to be formalised in the coming days.

“The investigation is now closed,” Condorelli told Corriere della Sera. “Within days I will ask the preliminary hearing judge to charge those under investigation.”

Meanwhile, Gazzetta dello Sport reports that the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) has already requested the evidence gathered in the investigation, which is understood to include some video footage as well as recorded telephone conversations.

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