Alessandro Petacchi banned two years for doping

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AIGLE, Switzerland — Retired sprinting standout Alessandro Petacchi has been banned for two years by the International Cycling Union after being linked to a blood doping ring.

The UCI says that Petacchi was punished for “use of prohibited methods/substances” in 2012 and 2013 based on information received from authorities in Austria.

The 45-year-old Petacchi, who won the points classification at all three Grand Tours, is the most successful cyclist linked to a scheme in which a German doctor allegedly offered doping services around the world to athletes in multiple sports.

The scandal blew open when five cross-country skiers were arrested at the Nordic world championships this year.

Austrian cyclists Stefan Denifl and Georg Preidler were each banned for four years in June by the Austrian Anti-Doping Legal Committee for their involvement in the doping network.

Petacchi, who won 22 stages at the Giro, has said he never had a blood transfusion.

The Italian served a nine-month ban in 2007 after testing positive for the asthma medication salbutamol.

Petacchi was suspended from his role as a cycling commentator on Italian state TV Rai in May after the blood doping allegations arose.