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Astana splits with Pellizotti over concerns involving anti-doping movement

  • By Gregor Brown
  • Published Dec. 9, 2013
Franco Pellizotti served a two-year doping ban that ended in 2012. Photo: Graham Watson | www.grahamwatson.com

MILAN (VN) — Franco Pellizotti will not race in Astana’s sky-blue colors next season as originally planned. The Kazakh team today announced its decision based on the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC).

A statement read, “As Astana Pro Team’s full-status membership in the MPCC prevents Franco Pellizotti from racing for the first half of next season, the Team and rider have mutually agreed not to sign a contract for 2014.”

Pellizotti served a two-year ban due to biological passport irregularities. He returned in May 2012, but the movement says its teams may not sign a banned rider during the two years following the suspension.

The voluntary movement aims to strengthen cycling’s anti-doping stance. It began in 2007, in the wake of the Operación Puerto doping scandal, and gathered speed last year after the Lance Armstrong case. It counts 11 first division and many second division teams as members.

Teams must adhere to the movement’s strict standards of conduct. In return, they stand first in line for race invitations. Last year, the International Association of Cycling Race Organizers (AIOCC) joined the group and agreed to give member teams priority.

To be a member, teams must follow several rules:
- Prohibit a rider from racing after the positive result of the first analysis or A sample.
- Don’t sign a rider who has had a ban of more than six months during the two years following his ban. An exception is given to whereabouts cases.
- If a rider needs corticosteroids (used for saddle sores and swelling) then pull him from competition for eight days.
- An internal control following a positive test within the team.
- If a team has more than one positive case from the past 12 months, withdraw it and assess the situation.

Other movements

The movement’s corticosteroid testing is above and beyond what is controlled by the UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). The tests led to a couple incidents this year.

The MPCC reprimanded team Europcar over the summer for letting Pierre Rolland race after he failed a cortisol test ahead of the final stage at the Critérium du Dauphiné. It suspended the team’s membership and though the team started, it risked missing the Tour de France.

Low cortisol levels prevented Theo Bos (Belkin) from racing the Vuelta a España. A movement member, Belkin followed the rules and sidelined Bos for eight days. Its doctors said later that asthma medication caused the problem.

The movement says its rules help. It pointed out that the Tour de France and Vuelta a España only invited wildcard teams that are members and that the Giro d’Italia paid for not doing so. Vini Fantini-Selle Italia, the only non-member wildcard team, had both Mauro Santambrogio and Danilo Di Luca test positive for EPO during the Giro.

Pellizotti?

Pellizotti placed second overall at the Giro d’Italia and won the mountains competition at the Tour de France in 2009. After his biological passport case, however, officinal stripped those results. He returned with team Androni Giocattoli last year, won the Italian title, and planned to step up to the first division in 2014.

Astana said Pellizotti would join the team two years after his ban ended, or in May 2014. The curly-haired rider from Friuli-Venezia Giulia could have helped Vincenzo Nibali take on Chris Froome (Sky) and attempt to win the Tour de France in July.

Said Astana general Manager Alexandre Vinokourov, “Negotiations with the Italian champion have always been optimistic and forthright, but in the end we agreed that we could not go forward with a contract to race with Astana Pro Team in 2014.”

Given it is now late in the year, several teams folded, and the MPCC’s rules, the 35-year-old may find it hard to find a new home in time for the 2014 season. Pellizotti was unavailable when VeloNews tried to contact him for this article.

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown

Bikes kept Gregor Brown out of trouble growing up in Oklahoma — BMX, freestyle and then watching Greg LeMond's Tour de France wins on CBS television's weekend highlights shows. The drama of the 1998 Tour, however, truly drew him into the fold. With a growing curiosity in European races and lifestyle, he followed his heart and established camp on Lake Como's shores in 2004. Brown has been following the Giro, the Tour and every major race in Europe since 2006. He will tell you it is about the "race within the race" – punching out the news and running to finish – but he loves a proper dinner, un piatto tipico ed un vino della zona.

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