Former world champion Ballan suspended by BMC team

MILAN Tue May 3, 2011 10:42am BST

Italy's Alessandro Ballan celebrates on the podium after winning the men's road race at the world cycling championships in Varese September 28, 2008. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo (ITALY)

Italy's Alessandro Ballan celebrates on the podium after winning the men's road race at the world cycling championships in Varese September 28, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Alessandro Garofalo (ITALY)

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MILAN (Reuters) - Italy's former world champion Alessandro Ballan has been suspended by his BMC team and will miss this month's Giro d'Italia because of his continued involvement in a long-running doping probe.

The 2008 world champion and compatriot Mauro Santambrogio, who has also been suspended by BMC, have been under investigation for months by Italian authorities looking into potential doping links with their former team Lampre.

Both Lampre and the riders deny any wrongdoing. Ballan was previously suspended by BMC last year only to be cleared by the team. However, the situation has changed again.

"BMC Racing Team President/General Manager Jim Ochowicz said new information received, along with consideration of the team's anti-doping policy and the UCI's Code of Conduct, means the two will be held out of competition pending further details," a statement from U.S.-based BMC said late Monday.

"Both riders have been cooperating fully with the investigation, and, as we did last year, we will respect their presumption of innocence and we expect them to continue their full support to the authorities."

The Giro, cycling's second biggest stage race after the Tour de France, starts in Turin Saturday.

Cycling has been riddled by doping scandals in recent years.

Three-times Tour champion Alberto Contador is competing in the Giro pending a decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport on whether he should face a ban for a positive test for clenbuterol last year.

(Writing by Mark Meadows; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)

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