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He was handed a two year ban from cycling in January 2014 but following a successful appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, former world champion Alessandro Ballan has received a six month reduction to that suspension.
The Italian rider will be eligible to return on August 17, although it remains to be seen if he can find a new team.
“I do not yet know the details of the judgment,” Ballan told Italian site Tuttobiciweb. “Also, because my lawyer Fabio Pavone is involved in a hearing, I intend to comment on the CAS decision at a later time.
“I can confirm instead that I have the will to return, although in August it will not be easy. I’m still in touch with teams and I never stopped training because I have always believed in a return to the saddle.”
Ballan raced with Lampre between 2004 and 2009 and is one of a large number of riders who were implicated in the Mantova doping investigation.
He joined the BMC Racing Team in 2010 but was sidelined in May 2011, along with then-teammate Mauro Santambrogio.
They had both been implicated in the investigation, but when the enquiry appeared to stall each were permitted to return to competition.
In July 2013 the duo were amongst 27 individuals named by La Gazzetta dello Sport as being officially indicted in connection to the case.
“It’s a story of 2009, in a period between the other when I was injured and I ran. I have made a mistake (he underwent sessions of ozone therapy, ed), but not serious enough to justify such a procedure: I have suspended the first time in April 2010 to the eve of Roubaix, have been heard at the Doping Tribunal in July 2011 and have waited two and a half years before setting up the process. On 16 January 2014, was sentenced to two years of disqualification, I immediately resorted to Tas and now came the judgment, and finally I see a little ‘light one end of the tunnel. See also been tough because with punctuality on the eve of every major race came a new stop.
“It is a story of 2009, at a time, among other things, when I was injured and I wasn’t racing,” he said. “I have made a mistake [he underwent ozone therapy sessions], but not so serious as to justify a similar procedure.
“I was suspended the first time in April 2010 on the eve of Roubaix [note: he wasn’t officially suspended, but was sidelined by his team for a period due to uncertainty about his situation – ed.]. I’ve been heard to the anti-doping Tribunal in July 2011 and have waited two and a half years before the setting up of the process. On January 16 2014 I was sentenced to two years ‘ disqualification.
“I immediately resorted to CAS and now comes the judgment. Finally I see a little light at the end of the tunnel. It was also hard because on the eve of every big race came a new stop.”
Ballan is now able to aim for a return to competition in just over six months, but first he needs to find a team.
One of the hurdles facing him is his age; he is 35 years old. A second, and bigger one, is related to the MPCC anti-doping organisation, of which 11 out of the 17 WorldTour teams plus all of the Pro Continental squads are members.
Under its regulations, riders who have been banned for longer than six months cannot ride for any MPCC member squad for a further two years after their return.
That would seem to limit Ballan to a place on one of the six non-members, meaning he will have to seek a contract with Sky, Trek Factory Racing, Etixx-QuickStep, Movistar, Tinkoff-Saxo or perhaps his former squad, the BMC Racing Team.
It is however unclear if those teams will have the desire, budget or roster space to take him on.