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Lampre case: Expert says phials seized from Nigrelli did not contain doping products

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Alessandro Ballan in action

Alessandro Ballan in action (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Former world champions Giuseppe Saronni and Gianni Bugno at the Colnago launch in Cambiago.

Former world champions Giuseppe Saronni and Gianni Bugno at the Colnago launch in Cambiago. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

A technical hearing of the Mantova-based doping case has heard that the phials seized from pharmacist Guido Nigrelli as part of the police investigation in 2009 did not contain doping products.

The long-running inquiry is centred on Nigrelli’s relationship with the Lampre team in 2008 and 2009, with 28 individuals facing a criminal trial that is due to begin in earnest later this year.

Nigrelli is one of three people to have already received a sporting sanction from the Italian Olympic Committee as a result of the inquiry. In January, CONI handed Nigrelli a life ban for his part in assisting doping on the Lampre team, while Dr. Fiorenzo Egeo Bonazzi was banned for four years and former world champion Alessandro Ballan was given a two-year ban for blood doping.

Four separate seizures of products were carried out by Italian police during the inquiry, the most significant of which took place when Nigrelli was stopped in Rovato on 30 April 2009. According to Gazzetta dello Sport, Dr. Donata Favretto, professor of forensic toxicology at the University of Padua, told the technical hearing on Tuesday that the substances seized from Nigrelli were not doping products.

However, the products seized from amateur cyclist Roberto Messina – who is accused of supplying Nigrelli – are reported by Gazzetta dello Sport to have included EPO, growth hormone and anabolic steroids, purchased from Romania and Mauritius.

Dr. Favretto listed Tachipirina (an over-the-counter analgesic), non-steroidal anti-inflammatories Voltaren and Moment, laxatives, flumetasone (a corticoid for topical use) and Cardirene (used to prevent thrombosis) among the products seized from Nigrelli.

Gazzetta reports that Favretto also stated that phials originally reported by the prosecution to have contained traces of testosterone were instead “anonymous phials containing watery solution,” adding that “testosterone exhibits an oily solution, not a watery one.”

Under cross-examination by prosecutor Antonino Condorelli and CONI’s lawyer Susanna Stranieri, Favretto reiterated that the substances seized from Nigrelli were not doping products.

“Substances that don’t have a pharmacological principle aren't aimed at doping,” Favretto said, according to Gazzetta. “The only one could be Cardirene, which is used in the prevention of thrombosis, and has a use in subjects who undergo treatment with EPO.”

Of the ten phials seized from Nigrelli, two were tested by Favretto and two by prosecutors. Condorelli has now requested that all ten of the phials be tested.

The case against Nigrelli and the Lampre team is built largely on a body of evidence gleaned from phone taps carried out in 2008 and 2009, with then manager Giuseppe Saronni, past and present riders Mauro Santambrogio, Alessandro Ballan, Damiano Cunego and Marzio Bruseghin, and current Omega Pharma-QuickStep doctor José Ibarguen among the 28 facing trial.

Gazzetta notes, however, that the developments at Tuesday’s technical hearing marked “a goal on the counter-attack for the defence.” The next hearing is fixed for October 31.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Alessandro Ballan’s appeal against his sporting sanction will be heard by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on September 23. Ballan has denied undergoing blood doping and claimed that he underwent ozone therapy as treatment for cytomegalovirus.

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