More doping news from Italy, today, as over the weekend, the Italian police searched the houses of Lorenzo Bernucci and Alessandro Petacchi. Both riders race for Lampre-Vini Farnese and in fact, Lampre hired Bernucci, a long-time friend of Petacchi, to serve as part of the lead-out trano for the sprinter. The investigation widens the scope of the on-going trafficking investigation, Via col Doping, which began in Padova with Davide Rebellin's doctor, Enrico Lazarro. Information from Emmanuele Sella, who tested positive for CERA in 2008, reportedly helped break open the Padova case. The current investigation focuses on the Toscana region, especially between Pisa and Lucca.
Eugene Capodacqua of La Republica reports that the police found several banned substances at the house of Bernucci. Apparently, they seized Albumin, a substance jused to dilute the blood and lower hematocrit, Sibutramine, a stimulant used for weight loss, and a vial containing an unknown substance from abroad. No doubt the investigators will want to take a closer look at the mystery substance in the vial. According to Capodacqua, Bernucci risks a two year suspension and other penalties for the possession of prohibited substances. No word yet whether Lampre-Vini Farnese will suspend him. Bernucci claims that the medicines were not his, but instead belonged to his brother and wife. Originally slated to race the Ronde van Vlaanderen, Bernucci left Belgium with a fever.
Bernucci has a previous history in the doping news. In 2007, the Italian tested positive for Sibutramine at the Tour of Germany. Sibutramine is used for weight-loss, but is chemically similar to amphetamines. At the time he rode for T-Mobile, a team reeling with the doping allegations around Jan Ullrich, and the team fired Bernucci immediately after the positive test. Bernucci also got the banhammer, earning a one year suspension from the Monaco Federation. This weekend's investigation could bring Bernucci a life-time ban, because it would be his second offense.
At Petacchi's house, meanwhile, the investigators came up empty-handed. According to available reports, it was all move along, nothing to see here at Casa Petacchi. This is good news for Petacchi, who has already served a suspension for the over-exuberant use of his asthma inhaler. No doubt the Lampre management would prefer not to lose their big sprinter to a doping case, especially when the UCI proved so slow to grant the team's ProTour license for the season.
Meanwhile in Spain, Valverde is somehow still racing. Last week, the press reported that Caisse d'Epargne had decided to withdraw the scandalous Spanish rider from racing after the sports arbitration court struck down his appeal. Banhammer! It seems likely that the team received a visit from Valverde's lawyers, who threatened all sorts of trouble. After all, the UCI has still not gotten around to banning Valverde from racing outside Italy. And last I checked, the País Vasco is definitely not Italy. Maybe we just need to send the UCI a map.