The Vini Zabù team have self-suspended themselves from racing as they carry out an internal investigation into Matteo De Bonis' positive anti-doping test for EPO and fight to save their wildcard invitation to the Giro d’Italia.
If the adverse analytical finding is confirmed by analysis of De Bonis’ B-Sample or if he confesses to doping, then Vini Zabù risk a suspension of 15-45 days for a second doping case in the same twelve-month period after Matteo Spreafico tested positive for ostarine on last year’s Giro. The period of self-suspension from racing could be counted in any UCI decision to suspend the team after a disciplinary hearing.
Doping is a crime in Italy and police carried out a series of searches on the Vini Zabù team and riders’ homes this week. Vini Zabù general manager Angelo Citracca, senior directeur sportif Luca Scinto, and De Bonis have all reportedly been placed under investigation.
Citracca told Cyclingnews that nothing illicit was found during the searches and the team is collaborating fully with the Italian police and the UCI.
“We’ve decided not to race while the investigation is ongoing. It seems the right thing to do,” Citracca told Cyclingnews.
“We’ve asked the UCI to hear our side of things. We don’t have a date or know anything about how the disciplinary process will unfold.”
The team was due to ride a series of Italian spring races, next week's Scheldeprijs Classic in Belgium, the Tour of Turkey and the Tour of the Alps.
The Giro d'Italia starts in Turin on May 8 and Citracca knows the team faces an uphill battle to be at the start. Rivals teams have already started lobbying for their place with Nairo Quintana saying he would ride the corsa rosa if Arkea-Samsic were invited.
“There’s a risk we won’t ride, who knows what will happen," Citracca said.
"It’s all happened so quickly that we’re not even thinking of the Giro. We’re still trying to understand what has happened. We’ve already gathered some evidence and passed it onto the police and the UCI."
Citracca insisted the evidence showed the rest of the team was not involved in De Bonis’ positive test for EPO.
“We are not involved in this. Our internal due diligence has worked, we’re not involved in doping and what has happened, we’ve shown that,” he said.
“The rider involved has admitted doing certain things with other people and he’s said he has not passed it on (to other riders).”
Questions have been raised about why Vini Zabù signed De Bonis after his modest amateur career, but Citracca insisted he was signed on sporting merit.
He also pushed back at the accusations of the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC), who highlighted that this was the ninth suspected doping case the team has been involved with since its inception as ISD in 2009.
“When these events occur multiple times, year after year, within the same team, and when the institutions fail to break the cycle, it represents a terrible blow to the credibility of cycling," the MPCC said.
Citracca hit back at the MPCC.
“I have to respond to the UCI, not the MPCC,” he said. “How many have the Androni team had in the last 25 years? I’ll let other people do the maths...
“We pay the UCI for the Biological Passport, not the MPCC. There’s not much sense to what they say. We’re only interested in showing that we’re not involved in this case and that it has nothing to do with the team.”
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