BAR101_Italy_Cycling_Giro.jpg-G5GFPUE7.1-1

Vini-Fantini has two riders busted for EPO, and why they have only themselves to blame. 

The team that inspired Team Yellow has now had two riders popped for the oldest drug in the book. The days of all-out EPO appeared well gone in the past few years, with smaller masking agents and a number of dietary supplements seemingly at the top of the menu for dirty pros. Call it retro-fitting or going back to what they know, two riders who should really know better have dug up EPO and gotten caught.

Danilo DiLuca got popped a few weeks back and was immediately pulled from the Giro by his team. The 37 year old has been caught before and has come up in nearly every serious drug scandal in Italian cycling since 2002. His return in 2013, just weeks before the Giro, was largely monetary. The team principles at Vini were offered a sort of personal sponsorship for Di Luca, and the directors were forced to accept Di Luca against their better judgement. For a team looking to gain World Tour status, the Di Luca positive in May essentially ruined their Giro, which should have been hailed as a massive success on the unbelievable ride of Mauro Santambroggio.

It truly was unbelievable, or at least, unreal. Santambrogio’s improvement from faithful sidekick at BMC to podium contender at V-F was the feel-good tale of the race, and his solid spring bought him loud vocal support around Italy and the world. This publication hailed him as the dark horse of the Giro, and his brief stay in the top five on GC had Yours Truly feeling rather smug.

His ‘non-negative’ EPO test will almost certainly be appealed, with his B sample tested and the formalities gone through almost lightly. The system now takes over, and we’ll get updates on his hearings sporadically. All the while, Mauro will maintained an indignant innocence; apologies all around for the trouble, but I am innocent, and this is taking attention from the sport.

Santambrogio’s three years at BMC were punctuated with a series of suspensions from the team in 2010 and 2011, along with Alessandro Ballan. His highlights included some consistent riding alongside team leaders at a number of stage races, though his time racing certainly suffered. His move to Vini Fantini was equally a chance to ride for himself as much as it was BMC distancing itself from a rider with questionable connections and a murky past.

With the Criterium du Dauphine in full swing and a very important time trial on deck, the Vini Fantini story will be on back burners for the foreseeable future, pushed out of mind with the Tour coming up quickly. However, Mauro’s guilt or innocence may well serve as the indicator of the Italian team’s future. The same sponsors that pushed for Di Luca’s place on the team will walk away from the squad at the end of the season, or look for the best way out possible down the line.