Giro d'Italia head Mauro Vegni has said that he is legally obliged to hold fire on the possible exclusion of the Bardiani-CSF team following the two non-negative cases for doping which emerged on the eve of the race.
It emerged just after the Giro teams presentation on Thursday evening that GH-Releasing Peptides (GHRPs) were detected in out-of-competition samples from Stefano Pirazzi and Nicola Ruffoni, and the pair were suspended, though any formal sanction and possible team punishment will have to wait until B-sample analysis confirms the original findings.
Speaking on Friday at the start of the opening stage in Alghero to a small group of reporters, Vegni argued: "In theory I could have sent the team home. But I've decided to wait for the B-test results, because if the B-sample came out negative, I'd be the one facing legal action from them [Bardiani].
"Unfortunately the damage has already been done, but we'll see what the actual consequences are when we get to the end of the formal process. If we get to the end of the Giro and the positives are confirmed, I can sue for damages."
Vegni also questioned what action the UCI and its disciplinary committee will take.
"The UCI are the judges of all of this, they're responsible for handling the case. It's up to them to say something. They haven't done that yet because they have to confirm the positive cases. So why should I decide something before them?"
He recognised that damage had been done to the image of the race, saying he was "very sorry for the Giro, for Italian cycling, and because of what this team has meant for Italian cycling, too." Bardiani-CSF have, in the last few years, focused on having an all-Italian roster and developing some of the best young Italian riders.
One of the first teams to sign on in Alghero, Bardiani-CSF's seven remaining riders were tight-lipped and serious-looking on the way to the start area. But they did stop to pose with some fans asking them to hold a Sardinian flag for a group photo and there was no booing or whistling from the crowd when they reached the signing on area.
Back at the team bus, on the other hand, team management faced tense rounds of questions from reporters as to how these cases had come about and what the consequences could or should be for the team.
Longstanding sports director Stefano Zanatta told reporters that "they [Pirazzi and Ruffoni] don't understand the project we have here. I didn't talk a lot to them last night, because I was so angry. We've put a lot of work into this team, but I'm sure that people are saying a lot of bad things about us."
Zanatta defended Bardiani-CSF's project as a development squad in a country where sponsors have abandoned cycling to the point that there are no longer any Italian WorldTour teams. Team manager Bruno Reverberi claimed that the sponsors had said they would stand by the team.
"We work with young guys here in Italy. I think we are needed here, and later they go in a WorldTour team," Zanatta said. "Now in Italy cycling is not in a very good place."
But he agreed with a reporter that overnight the team was now viewed as the black sheep of the peloton. He was, he said, worried about the possibility that the team would not make it as far as Milan. His main emotion, he said, was one of immense sadness. Or, as Zanatta put it, "I cry."