Italian pro cyclist Renzo Asci, 56, who was banned-for-life from the sport in 2008 after being convicted by a federal court in Rome for using, distributing, trafficking and selling performance enhancing drugs, returned to competition on 18 August at the World Masters Cycling Championship in St. Johann, Austria and finished second in the road race.
Luckily, other racers called-out Asci’s participation, result and banned-for-life status, forcing the organizers to disqualify him – but not until days after the race.
Asci’s past illegal doping activities were part of the multi-year “Oil for Drugs” investigation by Italy’s Anti-Narcotics Group (NAS) that began with the death of amateur cyclist Mario Gentileschi in 2002, who purchased and used amphetamines to boost athletic performance. The undercover investigation involved over 100 doping suspects, including amateur riders, top professionals and medical doctors.
Asci’s doping violations and criminal-like behavior were deemed so severe his lifetime ban (“Radiazione” in Italian) prohibits him: 1) from being involved at any level within any Italian sports federations or sporting disciplines, 2) from attending sports facilities or training areas for athletes, and 3) from taking part in sporting events.
Sadly, at amateur events all around the world organizers do not consistently check start lists to see if riders have been banned or sanctioned. Therefore, it is relatively easy for someone like Asci to compete outside of their home area inconspicuously by registering at the last minute onsite without needing to present an official racing license, which is exactly what Asci did.
In fact, this year was not the first time the World Masters Cycling Championship allowed the banned-for-life Asci to race. He also participated in 2018 and finished third.
Prior to the establishment of the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships for amateurs, the World Masters Cycling Federation hosted the only world championship race for aging amateur cyclists. This year marked the 54th edition of the World Masters Cycling Championship and it is still considered one of the most competitive and prized amateur races in Europe…especially for banned riders who still yearn to wear a rainbow accented world championship jersey.
Photos: Radweltpokal, WMCF, FCI