Mauro Santambrogio, ninth at the Giro d’Italia last month, is the second Vini Fantini-Selle Italia rider to test positive for banned blood booster EPO, according to Italian daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Cycling’s world governing body, the UCI, has provisionally suspended Santambrogio.
“The decision to provisionally suspend this rider was made in response to a report from the WADA-accredited laboratory in Rome indicating an Adverse Analytical Finding of EPO in his urine sample collected at the Giro d’ Italia on 4th May 2013,” the UCI said in a statement. “The provisional suspension of Mr. Santambrogio remains in force until a hearing panel convened by the Italian Cycling Federation determines whether he has committed an anti-doping rule violation under Article 21 of the UCI Anti-Doping Rules.
“Mr. Santambrogio has the right to request and attend the analysis of his B sample.”
Santambrogio won stage 14 in Bardonecchia, but stands to lose that result and his ninth on GC, should the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) confirm the result. Danilo Di Luca signed with Vini Fantini just before the Giro and registered a positive EPO result in an out-of-competition test before the race.
Vini Fantini staff were scheduled to speak with CONI on Monday to discuss the Di Luca positive and whether doping was widely used within the team.
In recent years, anti-doping and criminal investigators have taken notice of Santambrogio and his ties to the Mantova affair. The Mantova investigation has centered around performance enhancing drug use in the Lampre team, for whom the Italian rode in 2006-2009. Santambrogio and former teammate Alessandro Ballan were suspended multiple times by BMC Racing in 2010 and 2011 due to the ongoing investigation. Santambrogio joined Vini Fantini in 2013.
When contacted by VeloNews on Monday, BMC Racing president Jim Ochowicz called the positive test “another slap in the head.”
“I don’t want to comment on the past,” he said. “His problem is the present, obviously. And I don’t understand why anybody would want to do that. I think it’s pretty clear you can’t cheat the system. You’re going to get caught.”
Team fires Santambrogio
Later Monday, Vini Fantini manager Angelo Citracca announced that the team had fired Santambrogio and would seek damages against the Italian.
“Upon hearing the news, we proceeded to dismiss the athlete, to be followed by disciplinary proceedings and the claim for damages,” said Citracca in a press release. “The event, severe and painful, lays bare another athlete ‘sick’ and part of a cycling now dead and that, as demonstrated by these efficient controls, no longer has any chance of living in modern cycling. The team, despite the injury, will continue its operations even more motivated to protect their young, and all the athletes in this team have found their own dimension, respecting the code of ethics in international cycling and the values that have made our team a team of young and dynamic, growth-oriented with excellent athletes. Unfortunately, we were wrong to engage Santambrogio, betrayed by the beautiful promises of a past and a very promising first part of career devoted to the life of a follower, but this can not go to affect a long-running project like ours.”