Alessandro Petacchi won the bunch sprint to take out the 2005 Milan-San Remo. Behind him was Hondo, Hushovd, O'Grady, Freire, and a young Gilbert and Boonen.

Retired sprint great Petacchi banned from cycling for two years

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Retired Italian cyclist Alessandro Petacchi, winner of six Tour de France and 22 Giro d’Italia stages, has been suspended for two years for blood doping, the sport’s governing body the UCI said on Saturday (Aug 24).

The UCI has sanctioned the sprinter “for a period of two years of ineligibility for anti-doping rule violations committed in 2012 and 2013”, said a press release.

The case is based “on information received from the Austrian police authorities”, the UCI said.

In June, Austrian cyclists Stefan Denifl and Georg Preidler were banned for four years for doping by the Austrian anti-doping agency.

Petacchi’s punishment takes effect from May 14, the date of the opening of an investigation by the UCI against him, Slovenian Borut Bozic (retired) and Slovenia’s Kristijan Koren and Croatian Kristijan Durasek, both still riding.

The UCI said Petacchi had accepted “the consequences” and would be stripped of three stage victories in the 2012 Tour of Bavaria. He is ineligible to participate in any event under a UCI license for two years.

At the end of February, Austrian and German police dismantled a large international blood doping network based in Erfurt, Germany, and centred on German doctor Mark Schmidt on the eve of the 2019 Nordic Ski World Championships in Seefeld, Austria.

Initially focused on cross-country skiing, the investigation, named “Operation Aderlass” from the German word for bleeding, quickly spread to half a dozen sports, including cycling.

Alessandro Petacchi was one of cycling’s sprint greats but not without other controversies. In 2007, Petacchi was banned for testing positive for an asthma medication and had subsequent results were disqualified. The court later said that he had not cheated on purpose but had not taken enough care when consuming his legal asthma drug. He announced his retirement as a lead sprinter in the spring of 2013, and terminated his contract at Lampre–Merida. He rejoined the professional peloton in mid-2013, joining the Omega Pharma–Quick-Step squad as a lead-out man. In 2015, he joined the Southeast team, where he retired from cycling for good after that year’s Giro d’Italia.

Petacchi had been still competing with a UCI licence this year taking part in the ABSA Cape-Epic.

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