The UCI has announced that five riders will be sanctioned as a result of apparent violations found in their bio-passport data. The five are:
• Igor Astarloa Ascasibar of Amica Chips
• Pietro Caucchioli of Lampre-Ngc
• Francesco De Bonis of Diquigiovanni Androni
• Ruben Lobato Elvira, a Spanish rider who is not currently under contract
• Ricardo Serrano Gonzalez of Fuji-Servetto
The UCI will begin the proceedings shortly, though they have offered no specific time-line. The decision to open cases comes on the recommendation of independent experts the UCI has asked to interpret the passport data.
According to the press release, the UCI has conducted tests on 840 riders in the passport program. "An assessment of the first year of the bio-passport would not be complete without mentioning the fact that the overall analysis shows... that a very large majority of their profiles do not display any anomalies," claims the UCI. While these numbers sound like good news, the positive tests returned by several riders in the last year suggest the limits of the passport's reach.
The press release concludes by extolling the merits of the passport program and declaring that "today's announcement is a very important step in the battle against doping." "The UCI is proud, once more, to be the pioneering international federation in this field. After the introduction of blood tests in 1997 and the EPO detection test in 2001, it is now through the biological passport that the UCI is confronting the scourge of doping." Apparently, this announcement also marks the "dawn of a new future." Ahem.
No reaction has yet surfaced from the teams or riders involved, but two of the riders involved have previously come under suspicion. Astarloa has previously come under doping suspicions, and Milram cancelled a contract with the former World Champion and withdrew him from the 2008 Giro d'Italia. Francesco De Bonis met a similar fate at Gerolsteiner last season. The 27 year old Italian raced through May with the German team, who hired him on the recommendation of Davide Rebellin. Gerolsteiner quietly put him on the inactive list and he disappeared from sight, until he received a contract for this year from Diquigiovanni-Androni.
Source, The UCI Press Service.
Update: Lampre-Ngc has suspended Pietro Caucchioli as a consequence of the UCI's announcement today. The team doctor Carlo Guardascione has confirmed that the team has received the information from the UCI. The potential violation dates from September 2008, before Caucchioli rode for Lampre-Ngc, and results from a blood test taken before the Tour of Poland. "For 2009, considering the information we have in our possession, we have not seen any anamolies and the behavior maintained by the rider has a normal health profile," explained Guardascione. — Source, Tuttobiciweb.it.
Update: Diquigiovanni-Androni has issued a statement in relation to Francesco De Bonis. The team has suspended the rider pending the outcome of disciplinary proceedings. Similarly to the Caucchioli case, the Diquigiovanni-Androni statement notes that the possible violation ocurred during the 2008 season, according to the information they have received from the UCI. The team confirms that De Bonis has not recorded any anamolous test results during the 2009 season. —Source, Tuttobiciweb.it.