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The MPCC has responded to a statement by Diego Ulissi’s Lampre-Merida team this week saying that he will return to competition with the squad in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, with the anti-doping body saying that it is seeking clarification from the squad.
In a communication issued today, the MPCC noted that all of its members have thus far accepted the rules of the association. It pointed out in particular an agreement that any member team should not hire a rider who has been suspended for six months or more.
The observance of this regulation is expected to last two years after a rider is eligible to return.
However Lampre-Merida indicated this week that it would retain Ulissi’s services despite his positive test for Salbutamol last May, plus the resulting nine month ban.
The MPCC’s communication appears to indicate that it may oppose the team on this.
“In the next days, MPCC is waiting for the position of Lampre-Merida about the team’s press release announcing Diego Ulissi’s come back on the next Vuelta al Pais Vasco,” it stated, raising the issue.
Last June the team announced that a medical control taken at the end of stage 11 of last year’s Giro d’Italia had revealed the presence of 1900 ng/ml of Salbutamol.
This was almost double the maximum limit of 1000 ng/ml permitted for those using an inhaler.
As a result Ulissi faced a disciplinary hearing and a possible suspension. On January 19 the Swiss Olympic Association handed him a partially-backdated nine month ban. That suspension is due to end on March 28.
According to his team, that association concluded that his excessive salbutamol levels were not a deliberate attempt to cheat.
Despite that, the MPCC rules appear to be clear that Ulissi should not ride for any member team in the next two years.
Lampre-Merida’s statement on Tuesday appears to disregard this regulation.
It said that he was training with his team-mates in Tuscany and that he would return to competition in early April.
“Diego will debut in Volta al Pais Vasco (April 6-11),” it said, “and he’ll race the Ardenne Classics (Amstel Gold Race on April 19, Flèche Wallone on April 22 and Liège-Bastogne-Liège on April the 26th).
“In May, Ulissi will be at the start of Giro d’Italia and Tour de Romandie will be the last race before the Pink Race.”
In the past riders have been unable to sign up to MPCC teams due to bans. For example, Astana was blocked from signing Franco Pelizotti. The Italian had served a two year ban due to biological passport violations and was still within the extra two year probationary period when MPCC member Astana announced it wanted to sign him.
There is some debate if this same rule applies to Ulissi as he was already with Lampre-Merida prior to his ban, and the same team wants to keep him on board. However the MPCC statement appears to suggest the organisation may have an issue with him continuing there.
If Ulissi is indeed blocked from rejoining the team, he may face a tough fight to find a new slot. The MPCC announced Thursday that a full 81% of the current WorldTour and Pro Continental teams are now members.
The Italian would therefore have to look outside these squads in order to secure a ride.