Double Giro d’Italia stage winner Diego Ulissi has said that he is pleased despite being handed a nine-month ban after testing positive for excessive levels of salbutamol, saying that the findings have shown he didn’t deliberately try to cheat.
Under the ruling, the Swiss Olympic Association has handed him a ban stretching from June 25 last year until March 28.
The 25 year old won stages five and eight and moving to sixth overall. He lost time on stage 11 and slipped down the general classification standings.
His anti-doping control sample had been taken at the end of the eleventh stage, one day before he bounced back to take second in the Barolo time trial. He later withdrew from the race prior to stage 18 after becoming ill.
In June his team announced that the result of the control revealed the presence of 1900 ng/ml of Salbutamol, almost double the maximum limit of 1000 ng/ml permitted for those using an inhaler.
The team stated that Ulissi and the team doctor Carlo Guardascione had declared prior to the race that he would use the Ventolin inhaler during the race. According to Lampre Merida, two puffs lead to an equivalent amount of 100 ng of salbutamol.
It said the substance was necessary for him to use as he was suffering from what it termed bronchospasm.
Ulissi’s Lampre-Merida team issued a statement Monday, saying that it took note of the decision and ‘would like to stress the fact that it has been confirmed by the Swiss anti doping that the athlete acted negligently without having any intentions of improving his athletic performance.’
It said that as a result of this outcome, it expressed its support for the athlete, although it added that it would take a few days to evaluate the situation more precisely with its medical staff.
Ulissi said that the decision came at the end of a long and difficult period for him. “I feel it is important to underline the recognition that I have not acted with the intent to improve my athletic performance, but it has been established that I committed negligence, which of course I regret, especially for the corresponding damage which has been caused to the team.
“I have always received great support from the team as well as from my family who have constantly stayed close to me throughout these difficult times.”
He said that his victories and results would remain unchanged as a result of the decision and that he was pleased about that.
“I can now start to concentrate and look forward to planning my return to racing,” he added.
It however remains to be seen if he will be able to continue with his current team. Lampre-Merida is a member of the MPCC anti-doping organisation. Under its rules, any riders who have had a ban longer than six months cannot return to riding with a MPCC team for a further two years.
In the past this rule saw Astana blocked from signing Franco Pelizotti, who had served a two year ban due to biological passport violations.
Unless his team decides to leave the MPCC, it appears that Ulissi will have to find a squad outside this organisation for 2015 and 2016.