Anti-doping prosecutors in Italy are seeking a two-year ban for ex-world champion Alessandro Ballan of BMC Racing in connection with his alleged links to a long-running investigation in Mantua that is centred on his former Lampre team.
Ballan is accused of having violated article 2.2 of the World Anti-Doping Code, which relates to “use or attempted use by an athlete of a prohibited substance or a prohibited method.”
The anti-doping prosecutors’ office of Italy’s national Olympic committee, CONI, is also seeking a life ban for the pharmacist at the centre of the Mantua inquiry, Guido Nigrelli, and seven years for former Lampre team doctor, Fiorenzo Egeo Bonazzi.
Earlier this year, CONI was given access to files from the Mantua investigation, in which around 30 riders and team staff are implicated.
The news comes towards the end of a year in which the 34-year-old missed most of the season as a result of injuries sustained during a horrific training crash in Spain last December.
Ballan has raced just 16 days during 2013, returning to competition in June but his season finished the following month as a result of complications related to his recovery from those injuries.
In 2010, BMC Racing withdrew Ballan from racing on the eve of the Giro d’Italia after he was linked to the Mantua inquiry, returning him to the active roster later that month.
A similar situation arose prior to the following year's Giro after Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport published what it claimed were transcripts of conversations between Ballan and Nigrelli in which usage of human growth hormone and EPO was discussed.
Reacting to the latest developments, the team says it has no plans at present to remove Ballan from its active roster, issuing the following statement:
The BMC Racing Team is aware of, and will continue to monitor, CONI's legal proceedings involving Alessandro Ballan. Prior to a decision by the relevant authorities, the team will rely upon internal policies to determine the status of Ballan. At this time, no decision to remove him from active status has been made. As has been previously stated, the charges stem from a time period prior to Ballan's involvement with the BMC Racing Team. Out of respect for the athlete and for due process, the BMC Racing Team will not make specific comments about the case in the absence of new facts or significant announcements by the court. The BMC Racing Team is committed to a strict anti-doping philosophy and clean sport.
Ballan took the world champion’s rainbow jersey on home soil at Varese in 2008 and won the Tour of Flanders the previous year. A Classics specialist, he finished third in both Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders in 2012.
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.