Franco Pellizotti is confident he can be at the start of Tirreno-Adriatico next Tuesday after a marathon hearing at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
The former Liquigas rider was in Lausanne as the UCI appealed against the decision of the Italian Tribunale Nazionale Anti-doping to clear him of doping. Pellizotti was snared by the UCI’s Biological Passport before last year’s Giro d’Italia and has not raced since.
Pellizotti has requested a rapid verdict from CAS and hopes the chief arbitrator, Anglo-Italian Romano Subiotto, will issue a verdict before Tirreno-Adriatico begins on Wednesday in Marina di Carrara. He is reported to have an agreement in place to ride with the Movistar team if he is cleared.
“I was happy when I heard the date of the hearing because it meant we’ve reached the end of the whole thing. I want to ride Tirreno: in the last few weeks I’ve been training as if I was about to start a race,” Pellizotti told Gazzetta dello Sport.
The UCI is convinced Pellizotti has committed an anti-doping violation and is fighting to defend the validity of its Biological Passport programme.
Pellizotti has always insisted he is innocent and claims his blood value variations were caused by natural factors such as altitude training.
The UCI’s team of experts included Giuseppe D’Onofrio, Olaf Schumacher, Pierre Edoard Sottas, Michael Ashenden and Martial Saugy. Pellizotti has hired skilled anti-doping lawyer Rocco Taminelli and was defended by Giuseppe Banfi and the former head of the Lausanne anti-doping laboratory Laurent Rivier.
“We clarified our position and we repeated that we want the sentence issued by the Tribunale Nazionale Anti-doping to be upheld and our legal costs repaid,” Taminelli told Gazzetta dello Sport.
“The UCI initially asked for a four-year ban. Now they’re asking for at least two.”
Gazzetta dello Sport suggested that Pellizotti may be cleared because of an error in the testing and analysis procedure, giving the example of Chinese Judoka athlete Wen Tong. She tested positive for Clenbuterol but was cleared after the International Judo Federation tested her B sample without giving her the opportunity to be present.
Whatever the final verdict, Pellizotti’s case will mark a milestone in the development of the UCI’s Biological Passport and the future use of indirect blood testing in the fight against doping.