ROME (Reuters) - Alessandro Petacchi was cleared by the Italian Cycling Federation in a doping probe on Tuesday but the country’s anti-drugs body later said it would appeal the decision.
The 33-year-old was forced out of the Tour de France earlier this month when the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) asked the federation to impose a one-year ban after a dope test during May’s Giro d’Italia showed excessive levels of salbutamol.
However, the federation turned down the request on Tuesday after Petacchi argued that any overuse of salbutamol in his asthma inhaler was human error, only for CONI to hit back with news it was appealing.
“CONI’s anti-doping prosecutor finds that the decision appears to be spoilt by logical-legal contradictions,” said a statement on CONI’s Web site (www.coni.it), adding that the absence of negligence on Petacchi’s part had not been proved.
“The prosecutor therefore announces he proposes to appeal the decision.”
The Milram sprinter, who won five stages of this year’s Giro, has a medical certificate to use a set amount of salbutamol, which is otherwise a banned substance.
“It is one of the most beautiful victories of my life,” Petacchi told reporters before hearing of CONI’s appeal. “I do not wish anyone to suffer like I have suffered because this has been the worst experience of my life.
“After a 12-year career, 140 races won, I can only say that I had no reason to ruin my career with a Ventolin (inhaler). At the last Giro d’Italia I did nothing different from all the other times.”
Cycling has been dogged by numerous doping scandals, with the Astana team pulling out of the Tour de France on Tuesday after rider Alexander Vinokourov failed a dope test.
CONI has been relentless in its bid to clean up the sport by probing Italian riders and the Giro, widely regarded as the second most important race after the Tour.
The 2006 Giro champion Ivan Basso is serving a two-year ban for attempted doping.
Danilo Di Luca, who won this year’s race, is waiting to hear if he faces a suspension for his links to a doctor alleged to have supplied doping products to athletes. Di Luca denies any wrongdoing.
Writing by Mark Meadows in Milan