Reuters - Tue, 04 May 17:07:00 2010
The experience of Italian Ivan Basso during his two-year doping suspension should serve as a salutary warning for riders who consider cheating, UCI chief Pat McQuaid has said.
The UCI on Monday requested disciplinary proceedings against Franco Pellizotti, who finished second in last year's Giro, after his biological passport revealed suspicious blood data.
Basso, Pellizotti's compatriot and Liquigas team mate, was banned from 2006-08 for his involvement in the Operation Puerto blood doping scandal.
"Basso told me his world had changed," McQuaid told Reuters. "Now he has regained the respect of the fans.
"But during his suspension, his wife had to wear sunglasses to take their children to school.
"He said that when he looked his children in the face it was difficult for him to figure out what they thought of him."
Pellizotti was the third leading Italian rider to test positive in the last two years after Riccardo Ricco and Danilo Di Luca, who finished second in the 2009 Giro.
This year's Giro starts on Saturday and McQuaid said Italian riders must understand that doping does not work.
"Those riders who go into doping to make more money, they get caught and it changes their lives," McQuaid said.
"Their results show that Italian cyclists have won nothing in two years.
"A few years back, Italy had seven or eight top teams, now they only have two ProTour teams."
One of those, Lampre, is being targeted in an anti-doping investigation in Italy.
One of their former riders, ex-world champion Alessandro Ballan, has been provisionally suspended by his new team BMC pending the result of the investigation.
The latest results in the fight against doping just prove that the system is working, McQuaid said.
"With two cheats (Tadej Valjavec and Pellizotti) out of the race, the other riders will be happy," he added.
"In the EPO years (the 1990s), some (blood) parameters were clearly not in order. Once the EPO test came in, things improved. It started to creep up again in the late 2000's but in the last two years it has changed," McQuaid said.
Since January 2008, the UCI has collected blood samples from all professional riders to create a medical profile to be compared with data registered in doping tests.
"The vast majority of athletes have parameters that we expect from normal people. It's evidence that things are improving," McQuaid said.