Italian rider Franco Pellizotti faces a likely two-year suspension based on his irregular biological passport levels.

Yesterday, the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) recommended the suspension to the Italian anti-doping tribunal (TNA). The TNA will likely make its decision by the end of August.

“CONI let me down,” Pellizotti told Italian paper La Gazzetta dello Sport, “even if I somewhat expected this.”

CONI began its review of Pellizotti’s case after the International Cycling Union (UCI) announced the irregularities in his blood profile on May 3. The announcement derailed Pellizotti’s plans to win the Giro d’Italia, one year after finishing third and winning the 2009 Tour de France’s mountains classification.

Team Liquigas pulled him out of its Giro d’Italia team before the race due to the UCI’s announcement. However, it went on to win the race with Ivan Basso and continued its support for Pellizotti.

“Our beliefs are based on our doctors’ research,” said Liquigas president, Paolo Dal Lago. “We believe in the biological passport, but sometimes it is managed wrongly and in this case, the UCI managed it wrongly.”

“I remain confident,” continued Pellizotti yesterday. “The team did not dismiss me, which means they believe in me.”

However, it is up to the TNA to decide, not Liquigas. The TNA suspended Italians Francesco De Bonis and Pietro Caucchioli in May for similar, abnormal biological passport readings.

The UCI introduced the biological passport as a means to catch riders doping without a traditional positive test. It traces blood and urine values over time to look for suspicious changes and to signal doping.

Pellizotti was tested at last year’s Tour de France, August 9 and at a team camp in March. The UCI spotted the anomalies on December 6 and asked Pellizotti for an explanation on March 3.

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