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Giro stage winner Ulissi tests positive for excessive amount of anti-asthma drug

Italian rider and his Lampre-Merida team say he declared inhaler use but dispute levels of substance found in his urine

Lampre-Merida has revealed that Diego Ulissi, winner of two stages at last month’s Giro d’Italia, has been notified by the UCI of an adverse analytical finding for an excessive amount of the anti-asthma drug salbutamol during the race. Both the rider and his team have questioned the amount of the substance found.

The 24-year-old from Tuscany, who won the fifth and eighth stages of the three-week race, was found to have 1900 ng/ml of salbutamol in his urine, nearly twice the maximum permitted level of 1000 ng/ml.

The Italian WorldTour team pointed out that prior to the samples being taken un the test at the end of Stage 11 in Savona, the rider followed correct procedures in notifying the testers of the medication he had taken that day.

In a statement, it said: “It is important to point out that Diego Ulissi, accompanied by Dr. Carlo Guardascione (head team doctor) had declared in his statement taken prior to the anti-doping control, the assumption before the race of Ventolin (2 puffs, equivalent to 100 ng of salbutamol each) and paracetamol during the race, the latter given by the race doctor due to the crash which occurred during the stage in which he had been involved with many other athletes.

“The assumption of Ventolin is permitted and was necessary because Ulissi was suffering from bronchospasm,” which is often associated with asthma. “As usual, all previous assumptions of Ventolin had been correctly declared.”

Ulissi, who has been provisionally suspended from racing by his team in line with its own code of conduct and will also miss a training camp for the national team, has requested that his B sample be opened and analysed.

Lampre-Merida added: “Ulissi strongly rejects the presence of such a large amount of salbutamol and decided to make use of the possibility provided for by the WADA and UCI regulations to undergo a controlled [urine] excretion study in relation to the substance salbutamol.”

In May 2008, the Court of Arbitration for Sport handed a ban to Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi and stripped him of results including five Giro d’Italia stage wins after he tested positive for an excessive amount of salbutamol.

In its ruling, CAS acknowledged that Petacchi, who was permitted to take the medication, had not intended to cheat, but it held that he had failed to exercise “utmost caution” in exceeding the permitted dosage.

Its decision overturned a previous one from the Italian Olympic Committee’s anti-doping tribunal which had ruled that the presence of the substance was due to human error and Petacchi should not therefore be sanctioned.

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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