The Italian Olympic Committee has handed the already-retired Leonardo Bertagnolli a reduced ban of 17 months following a hearing before the national anti-doping tribunal in Rome on Thursday to discuss his biological passport case. CONI said that it had suspended half of the full sentence of two years and ten months due to Bertagnolli’s collaboration with prosecutors, although he would still have to pay the UCI a fine of €50,000 (reduced from the full €98,000) if he were to return to racing.
Bertagnolli announced his retirement in June 2012, on the very day that the UCI revealed that it was opening proceedings against him after detecting anomalies in the blood profile of his biological passport. It subsequently emerged that Bertagnolli had already confessed to doping in May 2011 when questioned by investigators from the Padova-based anti-doping inquiry, which centres around the activities of Dr. Michele Ferrari.
Bertagnolli’s statement to the Padova investigation provided detaisl on his blood doping while he was a Ferrari client, and it was used as evidence by the US Anti-Doping Agency as it built its case against Ferrari and the doping system in place at Lance Armstrong’s US Postal Service team.
Bertagnolli also named a number of his former Liquigas teammates as Ferrari clients during the 2007 season in his statement to the Padova investigation, including Roman Kreuziger, Franco Pellizzotti, Enrico Gasparotto and Francesco Chicchi. The Liquigas team denied Bertagnolli's assertion that he had been given its permission to frequent Ferrari for the treatment of a thyroid problem.
The long-running Padova investigation has yet to reach its conclusion, but has already indirectly seen Filippo Pozzato, Michele Scarponi and Giovanni Visconti serve three-month bans after they admitted to CONI that they had been Ferrari clients.
The 35-year-old Bertagnolli was a professional for eleven seasons, racing for Saeco, Cofidis, Liquigas, Amica Chips, Diquigiovanni and Lampre. He won stages at the Giro d’Italia (2009) and the Vuelta a España (2005), as well as the San Sebastian Classic in 2007.
Gazzetta dello Sport reports that Bertagnolli has found a new job outside of cycling since announcing his retirement, and it is understood that he has no intention of making a return to racing when his ban expires on November 24 of this year.
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