Wed, Jul 30, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Champion Italian cyclist tests positive for substance

AFP , ROME

Italy’s Marta Bastianelli cries after winning the women’s road race during the UCI Road World Championships in Stuttgart, Germany, on Sept. 29, last year.

PHOTO: AFP

World champion road cyclist Marta Bastianelli blamed her local chemist after testing positive for a banned stimulant, as reported by Italian news agency Ansa on Monday.

Bastianelli tested positive for the stimulant in a control run by the International Cycling Union (UCI) during the Under-23 World Championships at Verbania on July 5, the competition at which she qualified for next month’s Olympic Games in Beijing.

The Italian Olympic Committee (Coni) responded to the news by kicking her off the Olympic squad, but Bastianelli has insisted she is innocent and instead blamed her local pharmacy.

“I’m disgusted with my trusted chemist for preparing a mix of herbs for me aimed at weight loss. Like always I wanted to read the list of products used and amongst them was benfluorex, which doesn’t figure among the list of banned substances,” she said. “However, laboratory analysis demonstrated that this product contains the ingredient responsible for my positive test. But how could I know that?”

Italian Cycling Federation president Renato Di Rocco immediately sprung to Bastianelli’s defense, claiming she was not guilty and insisting that they would ask for her B sample to be analyzed.

“She has committed an incredible act of naivite, she tested positive for flenfluramina: a dieting product,” he said. “She’s obsessed with her weight, she eats only salad.”

That version was backed up by Bastianelli’s mother.

“My daughter only took a medicine for losing weight, Benfluorex, with the agreement of her doctor: she made sure that it wasn’t a banned substance, it had a pineapple base,” she said.

Her mother, Mirella, said that Bastianelli had put on weight and had been advised by the Italian cycling team coaches to lose weight to improve her chances of winning races.

“Marta was so careful that recently she refused an anesthetic at the dentist for fear that it might contain a banned substance,” she said.

Coni officials were unsympathetic, though.

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