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A standoff between the MPCC anti-doping group and the Lampre-Merida team over the situation involving the rider Diego Ulissi has led to the team announcing it is withdrawing from the group with immediate effect.
Ulissi won two stages in last year’s Giro d’Italia but then tested positive for excessive levels of Salbutamol. His test, taken at the end of the 11th stage, revealed the presence of 1900 ng/ml of Salbutamol, almost double the maximum limit of 1000 ng/ml permitted for those using an inhaler.
In January he was handed a partially-backdated nine-month ban, with that suspension due to end on March 28.
Under MPCC rules member teams cannot sign riders who have served a suspension longer than six months for an additional two years. The team argued that as he already had a contract the rule did not apply but on February 2, the group indicated this was not the case.
“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.
Almost one month later, the team has decided to choose the rider over the group.
“Team Lampre-Merida officially confirms the decision to exit the MPCC, due to the impossibility of confirming their membership,” it said.
“This decision has been made considering the facts coming from recent events, namely the case of Diego Ulissi. This situation in particular has put Team Lampre-Merida in a position where we are obliged to take this decision as these principles set out by the MPCC are not possible to agree upon, namely: 1) The labour law, 2) Rules and regulations of the UCI.”
It said that it would “respect the obligation to keep Diego Ulissi as our employee,” and that he would return to racing as planned on March 28.
Last month CyclingTips sought clarification from the UCI as to the current situation with contracts concerning riders who were suspended. In the past, specifically with Alberto Contador’s suspension, the UCI indicated that once a rider is suspended, his contract becomes void.
The UCI has not replied to that query and so it is unclear whether or not that previous situation has changed.
Many teams have joined the MPCC. They received a PR benefit of being part of the group and, in exchange, had to accept additional anti-doping regulations as a result.
Ulissi’s squad now becomes the first team to leave that group.
“Team Lampre-Merida is obliged to postpone its membership with the MPCC, with a possible future consideration for the request of readmission at a time when the rules of the movement, which in the past have always been respected by the team even though at times have been unfavourable, are acceptable by the laws of the various bodies of reference.”
It remains to be seen if other teams will follow suit or if Lampre-Merida’s decision will be an isolated one.