Petacchi To Miss Tour de France After Failing Doping Test

Thursday, July 5th 2007, 10:40 am
By: News On 6

MILAN, Italy (AP) _ Alessandro Petacchi will miss this year's Tour de France after failing a doping test at the Giro d'Italia.

Team Milram spokesman Andrea Agostini said Petacchi will ``definitely not be racing'' in the Tour, which starts in London on Saturday.

On Wednesday, Italian Olympic Committee doping prosecutors recommended the Italian cycling federation ban the 33-year-old for one year for returning a ``non negative'' test for the asthma drug salbutamol during the 21-stage Giro, which ran May to June.

Petacchi, who suffers from asthma, is authorized to use a certain amount of salbutamol as part of his regular medication, although elevated levels of the drug can have performance-enhancing effects. He denies cheating.

Petacchi, a specialist sprinter, won five stages during this year's Giro.

The federation is to rule on the committee's recommendation on July 24.

Agostini said Team Milram manager Gianluigi Stanga will also not be at the Tour following German rider Joerg Jaksche's allegations that Stanga supported doping while working for the Polti team in 1997.

Last week, Jaksche told Germany's Spiegel magazine that he had used performance-enhancing drugs since '97 while riding for a number of teams _ including Polti _ and that it was either actively conducted by the team's leadership or tolerated.

Stanga was questioned by CONI prosecutors on Monday and denied the allegations.

Jaksche was suspended by current team Tinkoff Credit Systems in May for his involvement in the Spanish blood-doping scandal. He plans to make himself available as a witness to the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Also Thursday, pole vaulter Giuseppe Gibilisco and cyclist Domenico Quagliarello were questioned by CONI doping prosecutors in a four-year-old probe known as the ``Oil For Drugs'' case.

Gibilisco, the 2003 world pole vault champion and 2004 Olympic bronze medalist, requested his hearing after refusing to answer questions relating to the case last week. He is accused of ``the use or attempted use of a banned substance or method,'' but denies doping.

Quagliarello, who rides for the Flaminia team, was questioned for the first time. He denied any involvement.

Gibilisco risks a two-year suspension, while Quagliarello, who was suspended in 2002 for a separate doping offense, faces a lifetime ban if found guilty of a second infringement.

Several Italian athletes and doctors have been implicated in the probe, including Giro d'Italia winner Danilo Di Luca and third-place finisher Eddy Mazzoleni.

Mazzoleni is set to be questioned July 13 and Di Luca a day later.

Giovanna Melandri, the sports minister, reportedly said she was ``concerned'' about the extent of doping in Italian sport.

``The thing that worries me the most is the copycat effect that it may have on many kids who play sport and who may now think that doping is a given,'' Melandri was quoted as saying Thursday by the ANSA news agency. ``It is unthinkable to accept that it may become a routine practice.''

However, Melandri said the government was ``very determined to beat the doping phenomenon,'' adding that recent scandals showed anti-doping controls were working.

CONI prosecutors have also recommended bans for several other Italian cyclists, including Giuseppe Muraglia, Giampaolo Caruso and Michele Scarponi for various doping offenses.

Last month, the federation banned 2006 Giro d'Italia champion Ivan Basso for two years for his involvement in Operation Puerto.