Ballan, Cunego and 30 others may face doping charges as Mantova case passed to judge
Investigation centred around Lampre team reaches next stage of Italian legal process
The prosecutor leading the long running investigation in Mantova, Italy centred around the Lampre team is to ask a judge to indict 32 people on a variety of doping charges including general manager Beppe Saronni, former world champion Alessandro Ballan and 2004 Giro d’Italia winner Damiano Cunego, reports La Repubblica.
The riders, team staff and others allegedly involved in a doping ring run by Mariana Mantovana-based pharmacist Guido Nigrelli also include the likes of Denmark’s Michael Rasmussen, famously fired by his Rabobank team while leading the 2007 Tour de France, Ballan’s BMC Racing colleague Marco Santabrogio, and Movistar’s Marzio Bruseghin.
If the story has a somewhat familiar ring to it, that’s because it’s been two years since news of the investigation first broke, and almost a year since details emerged of what was claimed to be some of the key evidence gathered.That includes tapes of telephone calls in which Ballan allegedly incriminated himself in using banned substances including human growth hormone and procedures such as illegal blood transfusions.
In each of the past two seasons, both Ballan and Satambrogio have been placed on the non-active roster for a period by BMC Racing due to their involvement in the investigation. There is no news yet as to whether the team plans to take similar action following the latest developments in the case.
With top ten finishes in the Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo and E3 Harelbeke so far this season, Ballan is among the leading contenders in this weekend’s Tour of Flanders, a race he won in 2007.
However, in each of the past two seasons, BMC Racing has placed both him and Satambrogio on the non-active roster for a period as new developments have emerged of their involvement in the Mantova investigation. There has been no confirmation as yet regarding whether the team intends to take similar action this time.
The case now passes to the preliminary hearing judge, who will fix a date for a hearing to be held within the next three months as well as determining which, if any, charges each of the 32 people under suspicion will face.