Ballan Incriminates Himself As Doping Prosecution Looms

Leaked transcripts of conversations that allegedly took place between Alessandro Ballan and Guido Nigrelli, the pharmacist at the centre of an investigation into doping in Italy, have been published by Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.

The news appeared to explain the decision of BMC Racing to remove the former world champion from its active roster. Mantova-based investigators managed to gather other evidence, including video footage to implicate a number of past and present riders and staff of Lampre, Ballan’s former team.

The pharmacy of Nigrelli in Mariana Mantovana was said by the newspaper to be akin to a “sacristry of doping” for Lampre riders where it is claimed that riders would hang upon Nigrelli’s every word and buy anabolic steroids, EPO, and human growth hormone besides discussing how to evade testers, and talk freely about teammates.

The Gazzetta reported that Ballan spoke to Nigrelli on 1 April 2009 regarding human growth hormone, given the name ‘G,’ that another Lampre rider, Paolo Bossoni, was due to deliver to him. Ballan again spoke to Nigrelli on 20 April and the pair discussed the cyclist having taken EPO during the previous February’s Giro di Sardegna. After this, BMC Racing relieved both Ballan and former Lampre teammate Mauro Santambrogio of racing duties because of their links to the enquiry.

The 31-year-old will almost certainly face doping charges, including a potential criminal trial, and the prospect of a lengthy ban as well as being fined or even imprisoned if the allegations made against him are found true. In Italy, the judiciary is far more involved in investigations and drawing up charges compared to the English legal system. Italian law also makes use, supply or distribution of banned performance enhancing substances a criminal offence, with punishment including possible fines and even imprisonment, whether for riders or team staff.

Meanwhile, the prosecutor leading the long running investigation in Mantova is to ask a judge to indict 32 people on a variety of doping charges including general manager Beppe Saronni, former world champion Alessandro Ballan and  2004 Giro d’Italia winner Damiano Cunego, according to La Repubblica. The riders, team staff and others allegedly involved in a doping ring run by Nigrelli also include the likes of Denmark’s Michael Rasmussen and Movistar’s Marzio Bruseghin. The Italian Olympic Committee, CONI, has announced in 2011 that 2004 Giro d’Italia winner Damiano Cunego and former Lampre-ISD team manager Giuseppe Saronni will appear before its anti-doping prosecutor for answering charges resulting from a three-year investigation into doping based in Mantova wherein 32 people are accused of doping, including the former Rabobank rider Michael Rasmussen and ex-world champion Alessandro Ballan of BMC Racing.

According to recent news, BMC Racing’s Alessandro Ballan, who broke his left leg and a rib, punctured one lung, and ruptured his spleen in a high-speed crash during a team training ride near Parcent, Spain, was resting comfortably after undergoing surgeries to remove his spleen and repair a double fracture of his left femur. No release date has yet been established for Ballan, who had been due to ride at the Tour Down Under in Australia from Jan. 20-27 and has been replaced by Ivan Santaromita, BMC chief medical officer Max Testa said.

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