BMC refuses to play Italian game. Ballan rides Roubaix.

BMC. Screw Mantova.

Team BMC boss Jim Ochowicz is learning Italian, specifically Italian justice. A Berlitz Doping version.

Last year, with a new team hoping to secure wild card invites and then a ProTour license for 2011, Ochowicz played the game with caution.

When the Italian Mantova investigation blew up in the media with the usual hoopla about massive crimes against humanity and cycling, he immediately took the prudent course and pulled top classics rider Alessandro Ballan, whose name was on the naughty list.

Then, in what so often seems to be the case (Operacion Grial, anyone?), nothing more was heard about Mantova for a year. No indictments, no sanctions, no outcome, not even a hand

So finally, when all the smoke cleared and there was no fire or even a Duraflame, Ochowicz re-instated Ballan and Mauro Santambrogio who was also under suspicion.

Case closed, life moves on, isn’t professional cycling crazy? In the meantime, BMC gets the ProTour license, signs budding American talent Taylor Phinney and starts the new year strong. Ballan returns to his world champion form with several strong placings and big George Hincapie finishes a promising 6th place in Flanders.

All systems go for the Queen of the Classics, Paris-Roubaix. Except that almost one year to the day, Mantova rears its ugly head again after twelve months of silence. Once again Ballan is on the bad boy list, accused by investigators in Mantova of an autologous blood transfusion in 2009. There’s the usual dirty pharmacist handing out illegal performance enhancing candy and pointy syringes, In all, 32 people face charges and the bonfire blazes once more.

Only this time, Ochowicz isn’t playing the silly italian judicial game. Not a few days before Paris-Roubaix with big money on the line, sponsors excited and riders motivated. He refuses to pull Ballan a second time without solid proof. The Ground Hog Day amusement has worn out its charm. And to be honest, he’s kinda pissed off that this point, with the deja vu Mantova Bullshita.

“I can’t comment on something that happened on another team or somewhere else,” Ochowicz said. “We’re here to race Paris-Roubaix, we’re doing that and he’s taking to the start tomorrow.” End of story, morning glory.

This means that BMC’s Ochowicz has passed his class in beginning Italian justice. He’s not jumping thru hoops for innuendo and rumor again. They will sack Ballan instantly if someday– maybe next year at this time! — Mantova produces the legal goods, but until then, Ballan rides.

“I know what’s been in the newspaper but I can’t read Italian anyway so I’ve got to wait for a translation anyway and blah blah blah,” said Ochowicz. We don’t know how the Italian authorities will translate “blah blah blah” but basically it means “screw you.”

The BMC boss has figured out that Mantova is just one big silly game of Clue. Was it Professor Plum with the lead pipe in the study? Or was it Alessandro Ballan with the blood bag in the pharmacy? A Mantova mystery.

“I don’t know if they’re true or false, I can’t tell you, and I’m not sure anybody else can at this point,” Ochowicz said. “An allegation is just what it is, an allegation. If there’s a charge brought against him then we’ll have to take another look at it, but that isn’t the case.”

Maybe something of legal substance eventually happens with the Italian Mantova doping investigation. Nothing has happened for twelve months and that seems like plenty of time to decide on guilt and prosecution. There’s a statute for good sense and patience. Until there’s real proof, Ballan deserves to keep riding.

Chapeau, Ochowicz. Your Italian has really improved.

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