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.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc 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.