Italian Riders: Team BMC Racing Jumped Gun on Ballan Suspension
Team BMC said the move should not be seen as pre-determination of guilt.
Team BMC Racing acted prematurely in suspending former world cycling champion Alessandro Ballan for his implication in a doping investigation, Italy's Professional Cyclists' Association (ACCPI) said yesterday.
The American team withdrew Ballan, 30, from competition on Friday after it was revealed that he was among dozens of people involved in a criminal investigation in northern Italy.
BMC, which said the move should not be seen as pre-determination of guilt, also suspended Mauro Santambrogio, who like Ballan is a former member of the Lampre team which has been targeted by the investigation.
Ballan, who won the world title in 2008, has not been charged and the fact that he is under investigation does not necessarily mean prosecutors have evidence of any wrongdoing by the rider.
"There is still no specific accusation. All we know is that there is an investigation that will take six more months before it's finished," ACCPI Secretary Federico Maria Scaglia told Reuters.
"The prosecutor, himself, said that those under investigation will not necessarily be accused of anything. So suspending the riders now seems an imprudent and unfair act to us.
"If they come out clean, who will pay back the damage to their image and the loss of racing?"
Scaglia said BMC's attempt to keep its image untainted could damage cycling by "creating guilty parties before we even know what the accusation is."
"It seemed to me that the team acted in this way to avoid having any problems," he added.
"Cycling has lost credibility because of riders who have committed doping offenses, but if we carry on like this we'll lose more credibility as there are no certainties here."
BMC declined to comment on ACCPI's criticism, saying president Jim Ochowicz had outlined their position last week when he said the decision was made in accordance with team policy and the UCI's Code of Conduct.