Last July Franco Pellizotti stood on the podium on the Champs-Elysées in Paris with the polka-dot mountains jersey on his shoulders. This year the Italian, nicknamed the Dolphin, will most likely have to watch the Tour de France on TV as his career still sits in limbo.
Pellizotti was the highest profile of a number of riders who were withdrawn from competition, just before last month’s Giro d’Italia, because of apparently suspicious values on their biological passports. Many of those other riders have since been suspended, but Pellizotti has not; nevertheless, he still he waits for the green light to allow him to return to racing.
“Officially nothing [has changed],” he told la Gazzetta dello Sport. “So much so that I’m tired of waiting. I wanted to return for the Tour of Slovenia [last week], then the Italian Championships [this week], and then the Tour de France [next month]. Instead, in agreement with my lawyers, I’ve agreed to wait for a while so as not to embarrass the anti-doping prosecutor of CONI [the Italian Olympic Committee] and that of the UCI. A fortnight more or less won’t change my life, the season is still long, finishing at [the Giro di] Lombardia.”
Pellizotti has, he claims, done everything that has been asked of him in order to explain his passport anomalies. “I’ve talked about my situation,” he said. “I’ve explained, as far as possible, the changes in my values, and I’ve produced all the documents and the opinions of experts.”
These explanations have, he says, been accepted and it should just be a matter of time before he rejoins his Liquigas-Doimo team out on the road. “At the CONI anti-doping hearing the prosecutor Torri explained to me that since there has been no positive test, I could race today,” he explained. “He told me that there has been no similar case before me, and he warned that he’s waiting for the expert assessments of the anti-doping hearing to follow my explanations. He added that it seems strange, given that the biological passport is a tool created to monitor riders, that I hadn’t been tested since last August.”
His team, which had named Pellizotti as one of its three captains for last month’s Giro d’Italia before his last minute enforced withdrawal, has stood by him. “My team follows the situation by my side,” he said. “Roberto Amadio, the Liquigas-Doimo team manager, agrees that it’s best to leave a couple of weeks before I return to racing.”
Not having raced since the GP Industria & Artigianato on May 1st, the Dolphin could find a return to the speed of the peloton a bit of a shock. He has not been idle in his enforced season break though and has tried to stay in condition. “I’ve never stopped training,” he said. “Often alone, or with the riders that live close to me, with [Mirco] Lorenzetto or [Mauro] Da Dalto, or with [Marzio] Bruseghin or [Sacha] Modolo.”
With the apparent lack of any suspension, Pellizotti is still keen to get something from the season. “I hope to ride the Tour,” he said. “Otherwise a training camp with the team at the Passo San Pellegrino and then on to the Vuelta [a España].”
Despite all the problems, the Italian has managed to see some positive aspects to his enforced layoff. “My family,” he said, “I’ve finally had time to enjoy it; the solidarity and understanding of people, the support of the team and the Association of Professional Cyclists.