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Breaking: Petacchi Suspended, Out of the Tour!

Eurosport is reporting that Italian sprinting behemoth Alessandro Petacchi may receive a one-year ban for excessive levels of salbutamol. According to the story, prosecutor Ettore Torri accepted the explanation that Petacchi's overuse of his inhaler, for which he had an exemption, was merely an oversight, but nonetheless recommended punishment. Details forthcoming, but in recent days we've heard some longstanding complaints that the exemptions are too liberal, so perhaps this is a message to riders playing fast-and-loose with doctor's notes.

My two-second take is, this is a middlin bummer for Italian Cycling. I had previously called Petacchi's renaissance at the Giro d'Italia, where he won the points comp, a triumph for the race and tifosi. Not so much... though on the other hand, I suspect a lot of people will view the prosecution of a guy taking too many hits off his inhaler as a bit zealous, and not place Petacchi besides Basso in the Pantheon of the Fallen.

The effects on the Tour will be more noticeable. As Daniele Bennati told CN, other sprinters rely on the Milram train to sort out the final KM and set up everyone's plans for victory, not just Ale-Jet's. Now, either another team will step up and take on the long lead-out role (Quick Step??), or the stages will favor guys who can do higher speeds at the very last second, and who can make sense of chaos. Does that describe anyone we know?