7 May 2010

Pellizotti investigation casts a cloud over Sky's Giro debut

I should be really looking forward to Team Sky's Grand Tour debut at the Giro d'Italia, which kicks off in Amsterdam tomorrow and concludes in Verona on May 30th. It will provide the first real yardstick to assess Bradley Wiggins' prospects of improving on his fourth place finish at last year's Tour de France, as well as the progress of several other leading contenders.

Actually, I am looking forward to it.

However, my anticipation of the race comes in spite of rather than because of events leading up to it, with news breaking on Monday of yet another doping investigation into three riders, including Liquigas's Franco Pellizotti.

Pellizotti finished third on the road at the 2009 Giro, having placed fourth the previous year. That was subsequently upgraded to second after the original runner-up (and 2007 winner) Danilo di Luca returned two positive tests for the prohibited blood-booster CERA during the race. Add that to the 20-month ban recently completed by Riccardo Ricco, the 2008 runner-up (positive for CERA at the 2008 Tour), and you have a grim record which shows that half the podium finishers - all Italian - from the past two Giros have been either banned or suspended for actual/suspected doping offences.

It's not great, is it? Despite the considerable efforts (and money) invested into sophisticated and comprehensive drug-testing procedures - for which the sport should be applauded - it seems the potential rewards for those willing to cheat continue to outweigh the growing risks of detection. Ricco has already returned to professional racing. So too Michael Rasmussen, who was thrown out of the 2007 Tour while wearing the yellow jersey.

Something needs to be done. But what?