As Danilo Di Luca is questioned by the Italian anti-doping investigators in Rome about his positive test for EPO at the Giro d'Italia, it has emerged that his former Vini Fantini-Selle Italia teammate Mauro Santambrogio could be cleared of doping after doubts about the amount of EPO found in his urine sample.
According to Wednesday's Gazzetta dello Sport, Santambrogio was initially declared negative by the Rome anti-doping laboratory in a test carried out on a sample from May 4. However that sample was retested after Di Luca's positive test in the final week of the Giro d'Italia and declared positive.
Gazzetta dello Sport claims that a low level of EPO was identified possibly due to micro-dosing. It is widely accepted that a micro-dose of 500 units of EPO is very difficult to detect just 12 hours after it has been injected.
While it is reported that Santambrogio has requested the analysis of his B sample, it appears that the UCI has so far failed to push the procedure forward.
If Santambrogio's B sample proves to be negative for EPO then he will be formally cleared of doping.
Gazzetta has pointed out that in 2010 Vania Rossi, Riccardo Ricco's partner, was cleared of doping after her B sample was declared negative for CERA-EPO after showing a low result and a long drawn-out investigation.
Santambrogio was widely suspected of doping before and during the Giro d'Italia. He won the mountain stage to Jafferau and was overall contender until fading to ninth place in the final week of the race.
Di Luca facing a 8-12 year ban
Danilo Di Luca is expected to be questioned at length about his EPO positive by the anti-doping investigators of the Italian Olympic Committee. He opted against requesting the analysis of his B sample and seems ready to accept an eventual suspension.
He has already been suspended for six months in 2007 for working with the banned sports doctor Carlo Santuccione and for two years in 2009 after testing positive for CERA at the Giro d'Italia. Gazzetta suggests that Di Luca could be banned for between eight and 12 years for this third offence.
Doping is also a crime in Italy and so Di Luca could be investigated by police in his home town of Pescara.
Valentino Sciotti, the owner of the Farnese Vini company has called on Di Luca to confess in an open letter publish by several Italian media.
Sciotti forced the Vini Fantini team management to hire Di Luca in time for this year's Giro d'Italia. He has said he will renounce any legal action Di Luca if he fully collaborates with the authorities.
"I'm asking you to be a point of change between the doubts and shadows of cycling and a transparent sport where everyone can cheer for the show that they see, knowing that nothing can damage their faith and enthusiasm for sport," the letter reads.
"I can't offer you much because I've already given you what I could, I can only say that I'd admire your full collaboration so much that I'd end any legal action against you for the damage you caused my company and I'd again have faith in you."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.