Ex-world cycling champ Ballan banned 2 years

ROME (AP) -- Former world champion cyclist Alessandro Ballan was banned for two years on Friday for blood doping and fired by the BMC team.

The Italian Olympic Committee's anti-doping court announced the decision after Ballan was indicted on doping charges by a general court in Mantova for alleged team-wide drug use by Ballan's former team, Lampre.

Ballan won the road race at the 2008 worlds in Varese.

CONI's anti-doping prosecutor maintained that Ballan resorted to blood doping in Montichiari in 2009.

Ballan said in a hearing on Thursday that he used banned drugs to treat an illness.

Ballan is banned to Jan. 16, 2016, and the suspension thus could end the 34-year-old rider's career.

BMC president and general manager Jim Ochowicz announced that the team was terminating Ballan's contract due to the ban, noting that the suspension was ''in connection with his former team.''

Also Friday, Mantova pharmacist Guido Nigrelli was banned for life from sports activity and physician Fiorenzo Egeo Bonazzi was banned for four years.

Ballan already served two temporary suspensions from BMC during the Mantova court case, which is still proceeding.

Ballan rode for Lampre when he won the world title. He also won the Tour of Flanders in 2007.

He joined BMC in 2010.