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Rider tested positive for almost twice permitted amount of anti-asthma drug at last year's race...

Diego Ulissi, winner of two stages at last year’s Giro d’Italia, has received a nine-month ban after testing positive for excessive quantities of the anti-asthma drug, salbutamol.

According to a statement from his Lampre Merida team, the Swiss Olympic Association accepted that there was no deliberate intention to dope on the part of Ulissi, who is a resident of Switzerland and races under a licence issued by its national federation.

The team said it wanted "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 added: "In light of this, the team would like to expresses theirsupport to the athlete, while at the same time take a few days to evaluate the situation with more precision together with the medical staff."

Ulissi said: "Finally a decision has come today after a long and difficult period for me. 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 negligently, 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.

"I am pleased that, in the light of this decision, my victories and results obtained remain unchanged. I can now start to concentrate and look forward to planning my return to racing”.

The sanction includes the period in which Ulissi was provisionally suspended, meaning he will be free to return to racing from 28 March, in time for the Ardennes Classics and this year’s Giro.

The 25-year-old Italian and his Lampre Merida team, which announced in June last year that he had tested positive for almost twice the permitted amount of the substance, have consistently insisted he is innocent of doping.

He had already won the fifth and eighth stages of the race when, following Stage 11, he provided a sample that showed 1900 ng/ml of salbutamol in his urine.

The permitted threshold is 1000 ng/ml, and both the rider and his team maintained he had followed correct procedure in notifying the anti-doping authorities of the nature and amount of the medication he had taken that day.

Last month, we reported on a University of Kent study which found a high prevalence of exercise-induced asthma among elite athletes, and that one in three Team Sky riders have asthma.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.