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Riders' association questions BMC suspensions

The Italian Professional Cyclists Association (ACCPI) has labelled BMC Racing Team's sideling of Alessandro Ballan and Mauro Santambrogio unfair, given neither rider has been accused of any wrongdoing.

The Professional Continental team suspended the two riders last Friday pending the outcome of the Mantova police investigation, an anti-doping inquiry currently being held in Italy; ACCPI secretary Federico Maria Scaglia questioned who would be responsible for the damage to a rider's career if they've done no wrong.

"There is still no specific accusation. All we know is that there is an investigation that will take six more months before it's finished," Scaglia told Reuters. "The prosecutor himself said that those under investigation will not necessarily be accused of anything. So suspending the riders now seems an imprudent and unfair act to us.

"If they come out clean, who will pay back the damage to their image and the loss of racing?" he added.

The anti-doping investigation doesn't involve BMC Racing Team itself, instead centres around coach Guido Nigrelli and former Lampre riders. There have been no accusations of wrongdoing made against either Ballan or Santambrogio, and Scaglia fears the rider's precautionary sidelining only further damages the sport's credibility.

"It seemed to me that the team acted in this way to avoid having any problems," added Scaglia. "Cycling has lost credibility because of riders who have committed doping offenses, but if we carry on like this we'll lose more credibility as there are no certainties here."

BMC Racing Team president Jim Ochowicz was quick to highlight the team wasn't handing the pair a guilty verdict by sidelining them from competition when making the announcement. "This should not be seen as pre-determination of guilt in connection with the Italian investigation," he said. "Both will have to personally address the accusations."

The team's reaction to the Mantova investigation shows sensitivity to the issue of doping within the BMC Racing Team. The outfit is keen to ensure it represents clean competition after the Phonak squad - for which Ochowicz acted as a consultant and was owned by BMC's Andy Rihs - was disbanded following a host of doping cases, including that of Floyd Landis at the 2006 Tour de France.

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