Despite being accused by investigators in Mantova of undergoing an autologous blood transfusion in 2009, Team BMC boss Jim Ochowicz is adamant that Alessandro Ballan will start tomorrow's Paris-Roubaix.
According to reports in Italy, the former world champion is one of 32 people who could face charges following the conclusion of a lengthy inquiry.
“We have no comment on that. We’re here to race,” Ochowicz told Cyclingnews at the team’s hotel in Compiègne.
“I haven’t seen it and it’s just not something I can comment on. It’s just some article in a newspaper.”
Asked if the team had been contacted by Italian investigators, Ochowicz added: “Not me, no. The team has not.”
Ballan signed for BMC at the start of 2010 after spending six years at Lampre, where the alleged blood transfusion took place.
“I can’t comment on something that happened on another team or somewhere else and then again we don’t want to comment on a newspaper,” Ochowicz said. “We’re here to race Paris-Roubaix, we’re doing that and he’s taking to the start tomorrow.
“I know what’s been in the newspaper but I can’t read Italian anyway so I’ve got to wait for a translation anyway and blah blah blah.
“It’s got nothing to do with BMC. Not at the moment, not here today as I’m standing here.”
Finally, Ochowicz was asked if he had talked to Ballan since the allegations were broken last night. “That’s internal stuff within the team so I don’t want to comment on that either,” he said.
The Mantova investigation broke twelve months ago on the eve of Paris-Roubaix, and both Ballan and teammate Mauro Santambrogio were named. Both were pulled from racing by the team as they carried out an internal investigation. Ballan missed Paris--Roubaix, a race in which he has twice finished on the podium.
He was reinstated to the team’s racing programme in May with the team stating at the time that they "could not find indications that Ballan was involved in any doping in connection with his former team, Lampre."
At the time Ochowicz also said that Ballan had “fully cooperated with the Italian authority and has provided the investigation authority with all requested information and even more. Apart of that, no sporting authority has opened a proceeding against Alessandro Ballan so far. Given all these aspects, the BMC Team has no reason at all to not respect the presumption of innocence and will no longer withhold Alessandro Ballan from competition."
However, Mantova public prosecutor Antonino Condorelli told Corriere della Sera that Ballan was one of a number of people who had been investigated by Italian police, and he is accused of undergoing an illegal blood transfusion in Montichiari in 2009.
“Beyond the intercepted telephone calls, carabinieri from the NAS [the Italian anti-drug squad], carried out shadowing and ambush operations,” Condorelli told Corriere della Sera. “That is how we discovered that Alessandro Ballan would have undergone an auto-blood transfusion in a surgery in Montichiari, where a doctor, Fiorenzo Egeo Bonazzi, is also under investigation.”
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