Italian Olympic committee CONI sanctions ex-Lampre rider caught up in Mantua investigation

BMC Racing has sacked Alessandro Ballan after the former world champion was today banned for two years by the Italian Olympic committee, CONI.

The 34-year-old rider’s ban results from the long-running Mantua investigation centred around alleged doping involving his former Lampre team during 2008 and 2009.

In 2008, Ballan won the Tour of Flanders as well as the the rainbow jersey on home soil at Varese, the last Italian to win the world championship. He joined BMC Racing at the end of the 2009 season.

CONI said that the sanction was imposed due to a breach of article 2.2 of the World Anti-Doping Code, which prohibits “the use or attempted use of banned substances."

Also sanctioned by CONI today were the pharmacist said to be at the centre of the doping ring, Guido Nigrelli, who has been banned from involvement with sport for life, and doctor Fiorenzo Egeo Bonazzi, who received a four-year ban.

In 2011, Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport published transcripts of telephone conversations between Nigrelli and Ballan in which it claims the pair discussed the use of EPO and human growth hormone.

In a statement, Ballan’s team said: “In accordance with the BMC Racing Team's strict anti-doping policy, Ballan is no longer a member of the BMC Racing Team."

Ballan, a Classics specialist, has never raced the Giro d’Italia – he was scheduled to race it twice with BMC, in 2010 and 2011, but on both occasions was taken off the team’s active roster after reports in the Italian press that named him in connection with the Mantua investigation.

Last year, he raced just 16 days due to complications in his recovery from injuries sustained in a training ride in Spain the previous December.

Ballan’s ban will expire on 16 January 2016.

It comes just five weeks after CONI handed down a lifetime ban to another high-profile Italian cyclist, former Giro d’Italia champion Danilo Di Luca.

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.