Former Tour de France leader Nocentini gets four-year retroactive ban

Rinaldo Nocentini (Taviria) at the teams presentation of the 2019 Vuelta a San Juan
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Rinaldo Nocentini, who led the 2009 Tour de France for eight days, has been given a four-year ban and stripped of his results from the last two years of his career.

The Italian anti-doping tribunal of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) gave Nocentini the maximum penalty for anti-doping rule violations for the "use or attempted use of prohibited methods".

According to Corriere della Sera, the ban relates to Nocentini's biological passport values. The ban runs from November 30, 2020 through November 29, 2024 and disqualifies all of his results from January 1, 2018, including two stage victories at the Tropicale Amissa Bongo, while racing with the Continental Tavira team.

The UCI only requires WorldTeams and ProTeams to contribute to the athlete biological passport. 

Nocentini protested his innocence in a reaction with Tuttobiciweb.

"I find myself fighting a ghost, since there is no evidence of my misconduct, I am blown away," Nocentini told Tuttobiciweb (opens in new tab). "I asked to have all the doping tests I have undergone in 21 years as a professional, in and out-of-competition, to be double-checked.

"At 41, why should I have resorted to prohibited practices? They are not part of my working method or my values. In my career I have undergone all kinds of checks and nothing has ever turned out," he said. "In the many years in which I raced as a professional there have been inquiries like Operacion Puerto and those concerning Dr. Ferrari, I have never been brought up in any case and in no interception, being disqualified now so heavily it seems to me something out of this world."

Nocentini suggested that blood samples taken during the Volta a Portugal in uncontrolled conditions might be at fault.

"On more than one occasion with my teammates we wanted to refuse to undergo tests in unsanitary or inappropriate situations," but said riders were afraid to complain. "Once I had two tubes of blood taken and at the end of the check they gave me one in my hand, saying it was extra and I could keep it as a souvenir. Another time I had to take the test in the hotel lobby because, they said, there wasn't even a free room."

He said that during the Tour of Portugal at the centre of the dispute, "I remember that it was very hot and we had pointed out that the samples could not remain for 2 or 3 hours at 50°C. In the checks I was subjected to at home, they rightly checked the temperature of the environment."

Nocentini retired at the age of 42 in 2019 after four seasons with the Portuguese team Sporting Club/Tavira. He raced with AG2R La Mondiale for the bulk of his career, from 2007 to 2015, to moderate success. 

A one-time Italian prodigy, Nocentini won a silver medal at the 1998 under-23 world championships in Valkenberg, finishing behind solo attacker Ivan Basso and ahead of fellow Italian Danilo Di Luca. He turned professional with the Mapei team in 1999 and later finished second overall behind Davide Rebellin in the 2008 Paris-Nice. 

His best Grand Tour finish was a distant 12th in the 2009 Tour de France. Nocentini won a stage of the Tour of California in 2009 and the overall 2010 Tour Méditerranéen.

Nocentini now runs a training center for cyclists in the Arezzo area of Tuscany.

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