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Petacchi riding each day as though it were his last

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Alessandro Petacchi on the podium after his first Vuelta stage win

Alessandro Petacchi on the podium after his first Vuelta stage win (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) celebrates his Vuelta stage.

Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) celebrates his Vuelta stage. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) gives his signature salute.

Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) gives his signature salute. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) has admitted that every day that he races he does so in the fear that it might be his last. The Italian sprinter won stage 7 of the Vuelta a España Friday but remains under investigation in his home country in relation to alleged doping practices.

In June, Petacchi was placed under investigation by police in Italy as part of a widespread probe into doping in cycling and the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) is currently deciding whether to refer or drop its own inquiry into the allegations.

“I hope that they tell me something as soon as possible – in or out,” Petacchi told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “I race every time as though it were the last and it’s frightening.”

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. Given that he already served a suspension after his positive test for salbutamol in 2007, any new doping infraction would incur further sanctions that would effectively end his career.

“I’d like to keep racing, but I’m not relaxed. My head is in another place,” Petacchi said. “It would really annoy me if my case were referred. In fact, it would disgust me because I have struggled a lot in my life and to finish like that wouldn’t be just.

“I don’t think I have the will to go through more trials and to drag people like [Lampre manager Giuseppe] Saronni and [Lampre president Romeo Mario] Galbusera into this story, because they don’t deserve it.”

Petacchi was keen to thank his team in the wake of his Vuelta victory in Orihuela. “Saronni has complete faith in me and has already proposed a contract extension,” he said. “It was he who wanted me to come and ride the Vuelta.” His current contract expires at the end of 2011.

Petacchi also admitted that he is not expecting to feature in the Italian team at the world championships, in spite of his growing form. “A few days before I left for the Vuelta, Paolo Bettini came to my house and showed me the video of the course and we spoke man to man,” Petacchi explained. “Today’s stage can’t be compared to the Melbourne course in terms of length or difficulty. You’d need to be in great form there not to get dropped on the climbs. We’ll see, but for now the Worlds aren’t my priority."