BMC Racing’s plans for the Giro d’Italia have been thrown into turmoil after the US-based outfit confirmed that former world champion Alessandro Ballan, who had been due to lead it in the race, and fellow Italian Mauro Santambrogio, have both been stood down from the team as the Mantova-based investigation into doping within professional cycling continues.
If the news has a familiar ring to it, that’s because BMC placed the same two riders on its inactive list a little over 12 months ago after news first broke of their becoming embroiled in that enquiry, which centres around the Lampre team. Both Ballan, aged 31, and Santambrogio, 26, rode for the Italian outfit before joining BMC.
Last year, Ballan was cleared to race again by BMC by the end of May, and took third place the following month to Giovanni Visconti in the Italian national road championships. His results this year include second behind Philippe Gilbert in the Montepaschi Strade Bianche, plus fourth and sixth respectively in Milan-San Remo and Paris-Roubaix.
Prior to that latter race, BMC came under criticism for keeping Ballan in its line-up for the Northern French Classic as new allegations of involvement in doping were levelled at him in the Italian press.
Santambrogio, meanwhile, returned from his absence last year to help provide one of the season’s most striking images as he nursed team leader Cadel Evans, who turned out to have suffered a broken elbow the previous day, to the finish of Stage 9 of the Tour de France as the Australian unsuccessfully tried to hang on to the maillot jaune, the pair in tears as they embraced after crossing the line.
In a statement published on its website, the California-based team said: “The ongoing Italian investigation, which includes two of our current members, Alessandro Ballan and Mauro Santambrogio, continues. The investigation started when the two were not part of the BMC Racing Team. ”
BMC Racing Team President and General Manager Jim Ochowicz explained: “New information received, along with consideration of the team's anti-doping policy and the UCI's Code of Conduct, means the two will be held out of competition pending further details.
“Both riders have been cooperating fully with the investigation, and, as we did last year, we will respect their presumption of innocence and we expect them to continue their full support to the authorities.”
He added that the team would “monitor the investigation and both riders will have to personally address any accusations on their own.”
Given their previous involvement in the Mantova enquiry, it’s not entirely clear what the "new information" is that has prompted BMC to take the measure now of standiong down Ballan and Santambrogio, who both rode in yesterday’s Granfondo fi’zi:k which started and finished near Vicenza.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.