The Italian Cycling Federation (FCI) on Tuesday cleared Alessandro Petacchi of doping at this year's Giro D'Italia.
The 33-year-old Italian sprinter escaped punishment despite being charged with the offence by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) on July 4.
CONI had recommended to the FCI that Petacchi be banned from cycling for 12 months after a urine sample he gave at Pinerolo on May 23 showed an unusually high level of salbutamol, a substance primarily used to treat asthma. Salbutamol is a banned substance but riders suffering from asthma are allowed restricted use of the drug if they have a medicalcertificate.
Petacchi, who has such a certificate having suffered from asthma for many years, put the excessive amount of salbutamol in his system that day down to squirting his inhaler too aggressively.
Earlier this month Dick Pound, supremo of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), apart from delivering a devastating attack on the sport of cycling itself had remarked dryly that 'there are an awful lot of courageous and heroic asthma sufferers out there' referring to the above average number of cyclists that claimed to suffer from asthma.
However, after reviewing the evidence, the FCI supported Petacchi's claim that human error was to blame for his positive test, which resulted in his Milram team barring him from the Tour de France.
"It's one of the most beautiful victories of my life," said a jubilant Petacchi after he was cleared. I wouldn't wish for anyone to suffer in the way I have because it was the worst experience of my life. I always believed that I hadn't done anything wrong, and now I have come out of this with my head held high."
A statement issued by the FCI said: "The disciplinary commission has absolved Petacchi of the offence for which he was charged (by CONI).
"The commission found that the traces of salbutamol found in Petacchi's urine were the result of the inhalation of the drug for therapeutic reasons, circumstances which did not contribute to a violation of anti-doping regulations."
However, Pettachi's joy could be shortlived as the sport's governing bodythe International Cycling Union (UCI) may not accept the decision and may appeal according to their chief Pat McQuaid.
The sport's world ruling body has the right to appeal that decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne.
"The UCI will ask for the file and we will then study it once we receive it," McQuaid told AFP on Tuesday. "We don't know all the details of the Italian federation's decision, but we will be making a request for the file in the next 24 hours."
McQuaid said that after studying the file, they could then appeal "within a matter of days".
"It is a possibilty that we appeal," added the Irishman, who was speaking from Ireland.
Prior to CONI charging him with doping, Petacchi, who won four stages in the 2003 Tour de France, vehemently protested his innocence.
"What must I do to show that I acted in good faith," he said. "Why would I have done anything differently from other times, especially when I carry the responsibility of my team, and my sponsors are always speaking out against doping?
"I may have used the (salbutamol) spray a bit more than usual, but I didn't do anything illegal."
© AFP 2007