Eight Italians cleared of doping violations

Olympic triple jump bronze medallist Fabrizio Donato was among eight Italian athletes, including several hoping to compete at the Rio Games, cleared of doping violations on Monday by the country's anti-doping tribunal.

Eight Italians cleared of doping violations
Fabrizio Donato and seven others were cleared of doping violations. Photo: Johannes Eisele

Donato, the 2007 world long jump silver medallist Andrew Howe and Daniele Greco, the 2013 European indoor triple jump champion, had been part of a group of 26 athletes facing two-year bans after they were accused of failing to provide doping samples.

In December, Italy's anti-doping agency called for the athletes to be suspended for “evading, refusing or failing to submit themselves to provide samples” as well as breaching rules about informing doping authorities of their out-of-competition whereabouts.

The cases were then sent to the national anti-doping court, with a decision over the remaining 18 athletes expected to be returned in the next few weeks.

No reason was given for the court's decision on Monday, but Italian media reported that the national anti-doping agency is likely to appeal the ruling.

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World champ Valverde eyes maiden Tour of Lombardy triumph

Newly-crowned world champion Alejandro Valverde headlines the season-finale Tour of Lombardy on Saturday looking for his first win in a race where he has twice finished runner-up.

World champ Valverde eyes maiden Tour of Lombardy triumph
Alejandro Valverde celebrates after winning the Men's Elite road race of the 2018 UCI Road World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria on September 30, 2018. Photo: Christof Stache/AFP

The fifth and final Monument of the season – the 'Race of the Falling Leaves' – will be fought over 241km through the Alps-region between Bergamo and Como in northern Italy.

Movistar rider Valverde will be challenged by the same rivals who were beaten for the world championships road race crown in Innsbruck last month, including France's Romain Bardet who finished second and third-placed Canadian Michael Woods.

“Being world champion is important for whoever it might be,” said Valverde.

“It's also a race that I like a lot and which I've always nearly won.” 

Valverde finished second in the Tour of Lombardy in 2013 and 2014.

The 38-year-old warmed up by finishing third in the Milan-Turin semi-classic on Wednesday, which was won by French rider Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), who will be among the favourites this weekend.

Valverde, who was banned for two years following Spanish doping probe Operacion Puerto, this week defended his record since returning in 2012.

“That's water under the bridge, and I don't even want to talk about it. I believe I've sufficiently demonstrated who I am since then.”

READ ALSO: Cyclists gear up for Tour of Lombardy race 

Italian Vincenzo Nibali will be defending his title, over a route that is virtually identical to last year's apart from a final three kilometre drop to the finish line at Como.

Nibali, of the Bahrain-Merida team, also won the race in 2015, and is one of two former winners competing along with 2014 champion Daniel Martin of Ireland.

The 33-year-old Nibali, who has won all the Grand Tours including the Tour de France in 2014, but has struggled for form this season.

Race favourites include French duo Pinto, and Romain Barden, Italian Gianni Moscon and Colombians Rigoberto Uran and Miguel Angleo Lopez.

“With the form I'm now showing I'm getting more and more convinced of continuing the positive streak until Saturday in Lombardy,” said Pinot after winning the Milan-Turin.

British Sky riders Chris Froome, winner of the Giro d'Italia, and Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas, will not be competing.

The Mitchelton-Scott team are led by 2018 Vuelta champion Simon Yates and his twin brother Adam.

The route features iconic climbs up Madonna del Ghisallo and Muro di Sormano, with the final hill, a 1.7km ascent to Monte Olimpino with a five percent gradient.