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Petacchi heads to Seville for Vuelta start

Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) has flown to Seville ahead of the Vuelta a España but his participation in the Spanish race remains in doubt. The Tour de France green jersey winner was questioned for two hours by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) in Rome on Tuesday in relation to his part in a police investigation into doping currently being carried out in Padua.

Petacchi previously refused to answer police questions after being placed under formal investigation for “the use of forbidden substances and practices” before the start of this year’s Tour de France.

CONI will not make a decision on whether to refer or drop Petacchi’s sporting case until early next week, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. In the meantime, his Lampre-Farnese team have decided that he will start the Vuelta and he arrived in Seville yesterday evening. It is understood that Petacchi would be immediately withdrawn from the race if CONI did opt to pursue the case.

Petacchi has been accused of using PFC (Perfluorocarbon), which boosts the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood without raising haematocrit level, and human serum albumin, which can be used to reduce haematocrit levels artificially. As Petacchi has already served a suspension after his positive test for salbutamol in 2007, any new doping infraction would incur a further suspension that would effectively end the 36-year-old’s career.

Meanwhile, La Repubblica has reported that Petacchi’s teammate Lorenzo Bernucci, who was also questioned by CONI on Tuesday, confessed to the use of doping products. However, Bernucci refused to speak to the press on leaving Rome’s Olympic Stadium afterwards. The Italian newspaper also suggests that further documentation from the Padova police inquiry will be made available to CONI in the coming days.

Lampre-Farnese Vini sporting director Fabrizio Bontempi and soigneur Paolo Chiesa were questioned by CONI in Rome yesterday.

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Barry Ryan

Barry Ryan is European Editor at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation (opens in new tab), published by Gill Books.