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Italian federation lifts ban on ex-dopers from national team

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Mauro Vegni, Paolo Bettini and Renato Di Rocco

Mauro Vegni, Paolo Bettini and Renato Di Rocco (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Ivan Basso (Cannondale) is introduced at the team's 2013 presentation in Los Angeles

Ivan Basso (Cannondale) is introduced at the team's 2013 presentation in Los Angeles (Image credit: Josh Patterson)
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Italy's Annalisa Cucinotta

Italy's Annalisa Cucinotta (Image credit: Johnny Ortiz)

The Italian Cycling Federation is set to amend its by-law which bans all riders who have previously served a doping suspension of six months or more from riding for the national team. FCI president Renato Di Rocco introduced the measure in 2011 but is set to remove its retrospective element following his re-election for a third term.

Riders who receive doping bans of six months or more in the future will continue to be barred from the national team, but riders with past transgressions, such as Ivan Basso, Alessandro Petacchi and Franco Pellizotti, are now once again available for selection. Gazzetta dello Sport reports that the amendment will be ratified by the FCI’s federal council in mid-February.

Ivan Basso, who served a two-year ban for working with blood doping doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, welcomed the FCI decision and said that he was aiming to earn selection for the world championships in Florence in September.

“I’m very happy and I think a place on the Italian team for Florence 2013 could become an objective,” Basso told Gazzetta dello Sport. “That ruling was made in a time of emergency, and that’s ok, but I think that cycling is now a more serene sport.”

When the measure was introduced in 2011, riders with past doping bans were also forbidden from taking part in the national championships. While a late legal challenge from Danilo Di Luca failed in 2011, track rider Annalisa Cucinotta, banned for two years in 2008 for a positive test for the anabolic steroid boldenone, succeeded in overturning that element of the bylaw last May.

“For me, from that moment on, I was also ‘eligible’ for the national team, but I haven’t been back, and that’s by choice of Mr. Di Rocco,” Cucinotta said. “So long as I don’t get a call up, the rest is just hot air.”

Similarly nonplussed was Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Merida). The veteran sprinter, who served a ban for a positive test for salbutamol in 2007, examined the possibility of riding for another country in order to compete at the 2011 Worlds in Copenhagen.

“The decision was taken in the interests of Di Rocco and not of the riders,” Petacchi told Gazzetta. “Evidently, it was convenient again [to alter the rule], we’re talking about politics after all. What should I do now? Thank him when I see him?”

Di Rocco's re-election as president also opens the way for a restructuring of the national team's management set-up, with BMC directeur sportif Max Sciandri touted to take up the post of national team coach, while Paolo Bettini would step into a more developmental role.

“It’s clear that we won’t be giving the blue jersey away, it will be earned through commitment and results,” Di Rocco said of the changes to the by-law. “Furthermore, our youth project is a reality and it will continue.”