Petacchi refuses to answer police questions about doping allegations

Tour de France green jersey winner Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) has opted not to respond during police questioning about allegedly using two banned doping products.

“The accusations are too generic and so we decided not to respond to questions. There’s nothing strange about doing that, it’s a normal defence strategy,” Petacchi’s lawyer Virgilio Angelini told Gazzetta dello Sport. Former teammate and close friend Lorenzo Bernucci also refused to answer questions.

It first emerged that Petacchi had been formally placed under investigation by Italian police before the start of stage 16 of the Tour de France. However it has been suggested he knew about the accusations before leaving for the Tour. Petacchi insists he has done nothing wrong and was allowed to continue racing. He sealed victory in the points competition by finishing second in the final sprint on the Champs Elysees behind Mark Cavendish.

Italian police in Padua are carrying out a detailed investigation into doping. They raided the Girobio stage race in June, while Petacchi’s home was searched in April as part of an investigation by Mantua police. Nothing was found. It is believed the accusations of doping stem from phone taps carried into the activities of Brescia-based doctor Filippo Manelli.

Petacchi has been accused of using Pfc (Perfluorocarbon) and human serum albumin. Pfc can be used to increase the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood without raising haematocrit level. Its use in the peloton was first rumoured in 1997 as an alternative to EPO, when the UCI introduced “health checks” preventing riders with haematocrit levels in excess of 50 per cent from competing. Human albumin can be used to reduce haematocrit levels.

Petacchi will still be able to race in coming weeks because the police activities are still in the investigative phase and no formal changes have yet been made. However Petacchi has also been summoned to appear in front of the anti-doping investigators of the Italian Olympic Committee on August 3 in Rome. He faces a two-year ban if found guilty of doping.

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