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Banned Italian makes damning accusations against the Giro peloton in an interview that will be aired tonight and has been asked by CONI to provide explanations

Photo: Sirotti

DANILO DI LUCA

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22.01.2014 @ 21:37 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Danilo Di Luca again finds himself in the middle of a storm after accusing 90% of the Giro d'Italia peloton of using doping in the 2013 edition of the Italian grand tour. His claims have sparked a harsh reaction from the cycling world and Di Luca has now been asked by the Italian Olympic Committee CONI to explain his accusations.

 

Danilo Di Luca may have been banned for life and is no longer part of the professional cycling world but the 2007 Giro winner still knows how to put himself in the headlines. In an interview that will be aired tonight on the Italian TV station Italia 1, he admits to doping since his amateur days and claims that 90% of the Giro d'Italia peloton doped in 2013.

 

Di Luca has a controversial past and has been involved in several doping affair. In 2007 he first served a three-month ban for his involvement in the Oil for Drugs affair and shortly after returning, his blood samples from his Giro d'Italia win showed very low hormone levels that suggested that he had used a substance to hide doping.

 

Di Luca finally tested positive for EPO Cera in an out-of-competition control after having finished 2nd in the 2009 Giro. He cooperated with the authorities and served a reduced 15-month ban before returning with the Katusha team in 2012.

 

He had a successful season with Acqua e Sapone in 2012 but had difficulty finding a new employer when that team folded. At the request of the sponsor, he was signed by the Vini Fantini team in time for the 2013 Giro but left the race in disgrace when it was announced that he had tested positive for EPO in an out-of-competition control shortly before the start of the race. He was later handed a life-time ban from the sport.

 

In the interview, he claims that 90% of the Giro peloton were doping and that the remaining 10% were not because "10 percent don't care about the Giro d'Italia, they are preparing for other races and therefore not doping."

 

"It's impossible to finish in the top 10 in the Giro d'Italia and not dope," he said before suggesting a solution to the problem. "The best thing would be to legalize drugs so the entire peloton is on a level playing field."

 

Several Italian media have seen a transcript of the interview and have already published several details. Di Luca reportedly admits to doping since his amateur days but doesn't admit to having broken the rules when he won the Giro. In principle, he could still be stripped from that victory.

 

"I was always a champion, and won often," he said about his first introduction to doping. "Then, when I left the amateur ranks, riders who had raced with me a month before were a month later stronger than me."

 

He added that riders used to speak openly about doping but that the recent scandals forced them to be more careful. Nowadays, they are still given advice by doctors but must take care of the doping themselves.

 

In the interview, Di Luca was careful not to name any riders, sports directors or doctors. He also admits says that Lance Amstrong would still have won seven Tours de France if he hadn't doped.

 

"When I was found positive, he talked about me and said I was stupid," he said of Armstrong. "He said that because I was doped. But I know Armstrong: he won the Tour de France seven times and he would have won them even without doping. He became part of the system too."

 

Di Luca shows little remorse and doesn't regret having doped.

 

"The thing I regret is being caught," he said. "I made a mistake with the timing. It's just a matter of hours. Perhaps five hours before or five hours after, and I wouldn't have tested positive. Though it's not mathematically certain."

 

Strong reaction from the cycling world

The statements have prompted a strong reaction from his former colleagues. Vincenzo Nibali was the winner of the 2013 Giro and has indirectly been accused of doping by his former teammate who he supported in the 2007 Giro.

 

“For me, Danilo is at the end of his tether and he doesn’t know what to do anymore to earn a bit of loose change,” Nibali told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I’m sorry to say this because he was a great teammate, but now I can only think that he has become a bit brain-damaged.”

 

Another of Di Luca's former teammates, Joaquim Rodriguez, with whom he rode the 2012 Giro as part of the Katusha team, had a similar assesment.

 

“Danilo is talking like this now because we all know how he behaved throughout his career,” he said, according to Tuttobici. “But I don’t want to add any more. Di Luca doesn’t deserve to be given the chance to make publicity for himself at our expense.”

 

Andrew Talansky is part of the new generation of bike riders that are reported to have a different view on doping. He reacted harshly on Twitter.

 

“I feel genuine hatred towards Di Luca," he wrote. He's a worthless lying scumbag making false statements that hurt the sport I love.

 

“I wouldn't be in this sport if it was not possible to succeed at the highest level and do it clean."

 

Domenico Pozzovivo had a similar take on the current state of the sport.

 

"Di Luca?," he asked. "I don't like that he makes those statements. I believe that today 99 percent of the peloton is clean."

Di Luca's manager at Vini Fantini, Luca Scinto, was always against signing the Italian but was persuaded to do so by his sponsor. He claims to have only done so to secure the funding of the team.

 

"I don’t want to talk about Di Luca, he's an idiot," Scinto told Cyclingnews. "I was against hiring him and so was especially angry after what happened. What he and Santambrogio did last year nearly cost the jobs of 38 people on the team. Fortunately thanks to support from Neri Sottoli, we've managed to keep going, rebuild the team and secure an invitation to the Giro d'Italia. I don’t want to trawl back over the past and won't even watch the Di Luca interview on television, it'll just make me angry."

 

Valentino Sciotto from the Vini Fantini company who convinced Scinto to sign Di Luca, has sent out an open letter.

 

"You're not being fair, Danilo. I helped you in one of  the most difficult moments of your life and you promised that you'd have nothing to do with doping. But you did it and have refused to help those who investigate the problem. Now you're going on television and firing off about a world that welcomed you back, forgave and supported you, and which can't defend itself against your accusations," he wrote.

 

"Why don't you understand the pain you cause every time you say something? I'm really disappointed but I don’t think it's right that other people have to pay for your stupidity or for those who have followed your road.

 

"It's time you started to apologise, that you shut up or speak to the right people, so that other Danilos don't damage such a great sport. Despite everything, I think cycling can be a clean sport and offer an ethical  message for those who love it, manage it and take part in it."

 

CONI asks for explanation

When he received a 15-month ban in 2009, Di Luca had cooperated with authorities. The Italian Olympic Committee has now called him in for questioning, asking him to given an explanation on January 30 at noon. By admitting to doping, he may still lose all of the results that are within the statute of limitations.

 

The Association of Italian Cyclists (ACCPI) has decided to take legal actions against Di Luca. In a statement issued by the association, they inform that they had already taken action against him for his positive EPO test prior to the 2013 Giro.

 

After the recent statements have been aired, they "refuse to be insulted by a former colleague who has already been found guilty several times and who is one of the few in the history of the sport that have been banned for life" and "has no credibility".

 

The association adds that they cannot accept the "unscrupulous behavior and the frantic search for popularity".

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