Petacchi heard by CONI over Salbutamol use

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram)

Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) (Image credit: Sirotti)

Italian Sprinter Alessandro Petacchi will be heard by Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) anti-doping prosecutors after the UCI has announced his 'non-negative' result from the 2007 Giro d'Italia. The sprinter took his third of five Giro stage wins in Pinerolo on a rain-soaked day (May 23) ahead of a massive crash but afterwards his post-race control revealed high levels of Salbutamol (asthma drug) in his urine.

On June 12 three riders were discovered to have returned 'non-negative' controls during the Giro; Petacchi in Pinerolo, Leonardo Piepoli at Monte Zoncolan and Iban Mayo in Terme di Comano. The two Italians' urine samples were sent from Rome laboratories to Barcelona for further investigations while Mayo was cleared after tests confirmed that his high testosterone levels were of a natural origin, something that his team stated the UCI is aware of, and for which Mayo holds an exemption. Petacchi and Piepoli were heard by the UCI in Geneva on June 20 for their high levels of Salbutamol.

Lab officials in Barcelona were unable to confirm if the Salbutamol was injected or inhaled according to La Gazzetta dello Sport but the quantity (1320 nanograms) prompted the UCI to send notice, yesterday, to the Italian cycling federation (FCI) of the official 'non-negative' for Petacchi. The cycling federation has now passed the case to CONI's Ettore Torri for investigation.

"Maybe I did extra sprays that day," said Petacchi of the asthma drug. "However, I did not do anything wrong. In those days, I had felt like abandoning the Giro. ... I don't want to lose out on the Tour." The sprinter hopes to start in the Tour de France on July 7, when it departs from London. To speed up the process he and his lawyer, Giuseppe Pieraccini, have decided to skip the analysis of the B-sample that was taken and they have asked to be heard as soon as possible by Torri.

"What am I able to do to demonstrate my good faith? Why do I have to do something different from the other times?" questioned Petacchi.

The maximum limit of Salbutamol allowed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is 1000 ng/ml. Above this level, the athlete is investigated as per UCI rules stating that, "despite the granting of any form of Therapeutic Use Exemption [TUE], a concentration of Salbutamol (free plus glucuronide) greater than 1000 will be considered an Adverse Analytical Finding unless the athlete proves that the abnormal result was the consequence of the therapeutic use of inhaled Salbutamol."

Petacchi has suffered for years from asthma and has raced with TUEs for Salbutamol. The case is similar to that of Igor González de Galdeano, who in the 2002 Tour de France registered a reading of 1360. The UCI did not count this as a 'positive' and it allowed the Spaniard to continue racing. However it has more recently harmonised its anti-doping code with WADA.

"Petacchi is in possession of a therapeutic use certificate by the UCI," said his team, Milram, yesterday. "We have faith in Alessandro Petacchi. ... We will work with him to resolve the matter in a clear manner in time to participate in the Tour."

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