The Italian Olympic Committee (Coni) court of last instance suspended the doping case against Giro d'Italia champion Danilo Di Luca on Tuesday in order to allow three scientists to analyse the LPR team rider's sample.
Coni has 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.
A decision was expected Tuesday but instead judge Francesco Plotino asked for the sample to be re-analysed by independent scientists with a view to reconvening on April 16.
During the hearing the scientific director of Rome's anti-doping laboratory described Di Luca's sample 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 was represented by his lawyer Federico Cecconi as he was due to race in the Settimana Lombarda instead. "The decision of the court is understandable, it's a logical enough path to take at the end of a complicated affair," said Cecconi.
Analyses of Di Luca's sample had revealed that he had abnormally low hormonal levels, 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.
"This is not a matter of doubt but a concrete and precise accusation. An intravenous infusion, not necessarily aimed at rehydrating the cyclist's body, was performed between the first and second doping controls following the Mount Zoncolan stage," said Coni's prosecuting lawyer Fabio Filocamo.
"Di Luca was the object of manipulation of his body by virtue of a plasma transfusion. The use of plasma is more or less an aggressive method, used in illegal sporting practices as shown in the Puerto affair."
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