Emmanuele Sella admits doping at CONI hearing

Italian cyclist "had access to an unauthorized drug"

Italian cyclist Emanuele Sella admitted to taking the banned blood booster EPO at an Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) hearing in Rome on Friday.

After the hearing, in which he and Italian women's cyclist Marta Bastianelli were banned from all competitions, Sella issued a statement in which he admitted taking the drug. In the statement, Sella "honestly admitted to having had access to an unauthorized drug and clarified the context in which he had received this substance."

"I have got a weight off my shoulders. I'm conscious of what I did and as a result I decided to cooperate," Sella told Gazzetta dello Sport after the hearing.

CSF team rider Sella tested positive for the EPO (erythropoietin) out of competition last month following three stage wins at May's the Tour of Italy. Sella, a specialist climber, put in an excellent performance, powering home in the mountainous 14th, 15th and penultimate stages, to place sixth in the overall standings. But it was that strong showing - together with high finishes from team-mates Fortunato Baliani (seventh) and Domenico Pozzovivo (12th) - that raised the suspicions of doping officials.

Bastianelli, 21, the 2007 women's race world champion, will miss the Beijing Olympics.

Sella's countryman Ricardo Riccò was kicked off the Tour de France and sacked by his team for failing a drugs test, also for EPO.

© AFP 2008

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