Franco Pellizotti out of Tour of Italy on doping suspicions

Tadej Valjavec and Jesus Rosendo also pulled from Giro

Italian rider Franco Pellizotti of Liquigas, rated as one of the favourites for the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy), will be unable to compete in the event owing to unusually high blood readings on his biological passport, the International Cycling Union (UCI) said on Monday.

Two other racers, Slovenian Tadej Valjavec of AG2R and Spaniard Jesus Rosendo of Andalucia, were also found to have shown irregularities in their readings and will likewise miss the race, the UCI said.

Valjavec, twice a top-10 finisher in the Giro with the 33-year-old finishing 9th in the 2004 edition and 8th last year, was sacked by his team following the revelations.

The racers were found to have shown an "abnormal variation in the readings of a control undertaken by the UCI on the eve of the 2009 Tour de France."

"Franco Pellizotti will not be able to participate in the next Tour of Italy for irregular values in his biological passport. Franco must now justify these anomalies but as yet there is no sanction against him,", said Italian Cycling Federation Renato Di Rocco.

Pellizotti, 32, had been considered a potential champion for the Giro, which starts on Saturday in Amsterdam. He finished third in last year's race.

Rosendo's teammate and fellow Spaniard Manuel Vasquez was last week found positive for EPO.

Last June, the UCI revealed that Spanish riders Igor Astarloa, Ruben Lobato and Ricardo Serrano and Italians Pietro Caucchioli and Francesco De Bonis, had been accused of doping after showing up anomalies in their blood test readings.

It falls to the riders' respective federations to sanction them. Their results will only be annulled following disciplinary procedures.

The biological passport, put in place at the start of the 2008 season, detects drug-taking by building an electronic haemocritic profile over a period of time and includes results of individual urine tests and also individual blood tests and highlighting abnormal variations.

There have been six positive findings this year and 15 overall to date - one being Italian Danilo Di Luca, who finished second ahead of Pellizotti in the 2009 Giro.

© AFP 2010

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