By Gregor Brown
CSF Group Navigare and Emanuele Sella face hard times following the announcement of the cyclist's positive doping control for EPO-CERA yesterday by the International Cycling Union (UCI). Sella, 27 years old from Vicenza, Italy, will likely serve a two-year suspension and risks losing his stage wins in the Giro d'Italia.
Sella, winner of the three most difficult stages and the climber's maglia verde in the Giro d'Italia, was caught positive for EPO (Erythropoietin) in an out-of-competition test administered by the UCI on July 23. Many pundits were not surprised to hear the result given Sella's rocket-like rise in the Giro's final days of racing. He won back to back mountain stages in the Dolomites – Alpe di Pampeago and Passo Fedaia – and then stole the final mountain test in the Alps, stage 20 to Tirano.
UCI President Pat McQuaid pointed to Sella's performances as an indicator that something was wrong. He explained to Cyclingnews that the UCI's anti-doping branch tracked the rider, including which races he pulled out off. Sella was due to make his racing return at the Trofeo Matteotti, July 20 – three days after Riccardo Riccò tested positive for EPO-CERA at the Tour de France. Sella pulled out at the last minute due to tendonitis of his left knee, but he started in Carnago (August 1), Arona (2) and Appennino (3) – he did not finish in all three.
There is not proof that Sella used EPO during the Giro d'Italia, May 10 to June 1, but there is the possibility McQuaid will order his Giro samples tested in the same Paris lab that detected CERA in the July 23 control.
CSF Group was one of the standout teams at the Giro, despite the non-start of Ariel Richeze for the use of steroids. Fortunato Baliani and Domenico Pozzovivo played key rolls in Sella's stage wins. In addition, Italian Matteo Priamo won a stage of his own to Peschici. Mid-Giro, Priamo defended accusations from Germany's Andreas Klöden, who said the team was not under the same internal controls as his Astana team.
"Obviously, I hope that all is resolved for the best," said Bruno Reverberi, Team Manager of CSF Group, of Sella. "If it is proved true I would hope that Sella assumes responsibility and also supplies the names of others implicated. The athletes are responsible, but it is also justified that we go after those at their back."