Cunego responds disqualification threat

Cunego winning his second Giro di Lombardia

Cunego winning his second Giro di Lombardia (Image credit: AFP)

Strict application of rules could endanger Classics and Giro d'Italia participation

By Gregor Brown

Damiano Cunego was not exactly where he was supposed to be Monday evening when anti-doping controllers visited Team Lampre's camp and the 2007 Giro di Lombardia winner could face a three-month suspension if the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules are followed to the letter. The 26 year-old Italian noted that he has abided by the rules but believes strict adhesion to the rules in this case would be absurd.

The Italian ProTour team was subject to surprise controls Monday evening from 23:00 to 3:00 when four controllers sent by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) visited its camp in San Vincenzo (Toscana), Italy. Contrary to our early report, the riders were not in their rooms when the controllers arrive, instead they were on their way back from dinner. Cunego, his team-mates, the staff and two fans (who won a contest through Cunego's fan club) were having dinner at Gualdo del Re in Suvereto – 10 kilometres from San Vincenzo.

Cunego noted to Cyclingnews the differences in his earlier statements when he said, "It is not normal to be woken in the night during a camp."Talking about being awakened during the night for testing, he said "I simply said that it is not right to carry out controls so late when we are available all afternoon," he clarified Friday afternoon following training.

"The commissioners [CONI sanctioned controllers - ed.] arrived there at 23:15 and we returned to the hotel at 23:30, so I made the control within the anticipated time. The whole team went to dinner together, but I repeat, we were present on time for the controls and according to the rules."

The International Cycling Union (UCI) and WADA use the new Anti-Doping Administrative Management System (ADAMS) to track the riders' whereabouts. However, the system not yet acceptable in Italy due to privacy laws, and it should be in use by January 2009 once modifications are made; CONI instead uses a form of the Registered Testing Pool (RTP).

"I am absolutely in favour of surprise controls, but I don't believe it is right that controls that last up to 3:30 am at night, because the following day – like every day of the year – we have to train," Cunego insisted to Cyclingnews.

A disqualification from three to 12 months can be handed out to first time offenders of WADA's article 24, which could put Cunego out of the Ardennes Classics and the Giro d'Italia. "With regards to the disqualification, I believe it is absolutely absurd in this case because I correctly communicated to the UCI and WADA my whereabouts, in fact the CONI commissioners found me and made their controls on January 28, just like the UCI did on January 31.

"A disqualification has only been talked about in the media," the 2004 Giro champion noted. "Why should I be disqualified if I respected the rules of the UCI and CONI?"

The reason could come from CONI prosecutor, Ettore Torri. He has seen to the suspension of Ivan Basso and lately indicated the disciplinarily hearings could be opened for foreigners involved in Operación Puerto. In fact, La Gazzetta dello Sport noted that the tests have to do with CONI gathering more information on doctors that may have been listed in Puerto documents and operating in the zone of San Vincenzo, Pisa and Lucca.

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