Pellizotti CAS hearing begins in Switzerland

This week could be vital for the future of the UCI’s Biological Passport programme as the Court for Arbitration for Sport studies the Franco Pellizotti case.

The Italian was snared by the UCI’s Biological Passport programme before last year’s Giro d’Italia after experts identified three suspicious blood values that could have been sparked by blood doping or EPO use. In 2009 Pellizotti finished third in the Giro d'Italia and won the King of the Mountains title at the Tour de France.

He denied doping and was cleared by the Italian Tribunale Nazionale Anti-doping on October 21, who accepted that his blood values were affected by possible external factors such as altitude training and illness.

The UCI decided to appeal to CAS and has called on Giuseppe D’Onofrio, Olaf Schumacher, Pierre Edoard Sottas, Michael Ashenden and Martial Saugy to defend the validity of the Biological Passport and give evidence at the hearing.

D’Onofrio, Schumacher and Ashenden are all part of the independent expert group who analyse the profiles of the riders participating in the biological passport programme.

According to a report in Gazzetta dello Sport, Liquigas-Cannondale team doctor Roberto Corsetti is with Pellizotti in Lausanne. Corsetti has always defended Pellizotti even after the Italian team decided not to renew his contract. He has been linked to the Spanish team Movistar but team manager Eusebio Unzué has made it clear Pellizotti must clear his name before any deal can be finalised.

Gazzetta dello Sport claim that Pellizotti has requested that the hearing be considered urgent, which could mean a verdict is known in just five days' time. However, if the hearing become a technical rather than legal battle, it could be several months before a final verdict is reached.

The Pellizotti hearing is one of four cases pending that could decide the validity of indirect anti-doping screening programmes such as the UCI’s Biological Passport.

CAS has heard an appeal by Tadej Valjavec of Slovenia and Italians Francesco De Bonis and Pietro Caucchioli but has still to issue final verdicts.

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