Alessandro Ballan believes the two year ban he was handed by the Italian Olympic Committee [CONI] was too harsh.
"I had expected more understanding from the judges," he told Gazzetta dello Sport. "I made a minor error and was negligent. But the price to pay is too high."
Yesterday, CONI suspended the former World Champion for two years for his use of ozone treatment, in 2009. Ballan denied he used it for performance enhancing purposes, "I went through ozone therapy when I was ill and away from cycling.
"I was hospitalised and my values were at the bottom, with acute hepatitis due to cytomegalovirus. And as for my biological passport, it was clear. The surveys were never discussed. I was never suspected. I was completely down. It was hard to walk, climb stairs and, especially, cycle." However, the WADA code strictly prohibits the use of ozone treatment in any circumstances, and for that reason Ballan was given the suspension.
His suspension was quickly followed by his firing from the BMC team. Team manager Jim Ochowicz stood by the Italian through this and the Mantova investigation, for which Ballan still faces criminal proceedings. However, the team were quick to announce their parting of ways once CONI's decision was announced. Despite this, Ballan has no hard feelings towards the team he raced with for four seasons. "It's how the rules are. But Jim Ochowicz called me to declare their support. BMC is a great team. I wanted to repay him by letting his mind be free from problems."
After a season affected by the training crash he had last winter, Ballan was preparing for his return to racing. In December 2012, Ballan spent a week in intensive care after a training accident and had his spleen removed.
The Italian sat out much of the following year and made a brief return to racing, but more surgury forced him to the sidelines once again. He was set to start his season at the Tour de San Luis next week, but had to delay it due to the hearing. "This winter I have prepared myself well. I should have started in San Luis, but because of the judgment I had postponed the debut to Dubai."
Ballan and his legal team are considering an appeal to the CAS, but that could take some time and even if the decision is reversed or reduced, it's unlikely that he would be able to make a return to racing this season.
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