Danilo Di Luca acquitted on doping charge

Italian escapes two year ban

The Italian Olympic Committee (Coni) court of last instance on Wednesday acquitted cyclist Danilo Di Luca on doping charges which, had he been found guilty, would have brought a two-year ban.

Coni had requested a two-year suspension for the former Pro Tour champion after he returned an anomalous sample following the 17th stage of last year's Tour of Italy in May.

The court found that the case against Di Luca did not establish a doping offence under the terms of article 3.1 of the world anti-doping code.

The code stipulates that "the degree of proof, in all cases, has to be greater than the just balance of probability" of guilt.

"Danilo Di Luca has already paid a high price. He has already had to endure a deferral," said his lawyer Federico Cecconi, in allusion to an initial postponement of the case. "Of course we are satisfied ... but this procedure had been a tough load to bear. It could have been avoided."

The court initially suspended the doping case against the Giro d'Italia champion in order to allow three scientists to analyse his sample independently.

"I have already called Danilo," said the rider's brother, Massimo, who was in court. "He is very happy. Now he can concentrate on the Tour of Italy."

Tests on Di Luca showed up unusually low hormonal values equivalent to those of a child, according to press reports, suggesting he had been injected with water or some sort of fluid after the stage.

During the hearing the scientific director of Rome's anti-doping laboratory had described Di Luca's sample as anomalous.

Francesco Botre said: "The control carried out on May 30, 2007 after the 17th stage of the Giro, which finished on the Zoncolan peak, can be considered as an anomaly because it was clearly different (from other samples)."

Di Luca has already served another three month suspension at the end of last year for his role in the 'Oil for Drugs' scandal, although he has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to have that verdict overturned retroactively.

Later, Di Luca said: "Finally justice has been served. It's true I lost a year of my life but now I'm only thinking about riding and winning. Victories are the best cure for unhappiness. I have suffered a lot during the last year during which I have tried to avoid a lot of the criticism. Now I'm back in a happy mood.

And on doping allegations, he added: "There was no proof and there could not have been any."

Di Luca has already served another three month suspension at the end of last year for his role in the 'Oil for Drugs' scandal, although he has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to have that verdict overturned retroactively.

© AFP 2008

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