Retired cyclist Petacchi banned for 2 years for doping

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              FILE - In this May 10, 2011 file photo, Italy's Alessandro Petacchi pedals during the fourth stage of the Giro d'Italia, Tour of Italy cycling race, from Genoa to Livorno, Italy. Retired sprinting standout Alessandro Petacchi has been banned for two years by the International Cycling Union after being linked to a blood doping ring.  (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati)
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AIGLE, Switzerland (AP) — 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.