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n. Photo: NICO CASAMASSIMA | AFP

Reports suggest Ferrari active again in peloton

Astana denies reports linking the banned Italian doctor to two of its riders in a secret CADF dossier.

An undercover investigation by CADF suggests disgraced Italian doctor Michele Ferrari is active again in the pro peloton and points to possible links to two of Team Astana’s top stars.

Reports in Danish and Norwegian media Sunday cite a 24-page dossier that suggests that Jakob Fuglsang was connected with Ferrari, Lance Armstrong’s former trainer who’s been banned from cycling, as recently as the 2019 season. Reports also said Alexey Lutsenko attended a meeting between Ferrari and Fuglsang in Monaco.

The media reports cite a CADF dossier dated during the summer of 2019, providing the first hints that Ferrari might well be working with cyclists and teams despite a lifetime ban against the Italian doctor.

“Information from the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF) indicates that (Astana rider) Jakob Fuglsang is part of the program of Michele Ferrari, and that his teammate Alexey Lutsenko was present during at least one meeting between them in Nice/Monaco,” said an excerpt from CADF dossier published by Politiken.

“CADF has obtained information suggesting that Michele Ferrari continues to be involved in the Astana team, and that he went to Monaco (where Fuglsang is based) and other places to meet the riders,” claimed the report leaked to Norwegian and Danish media.

Fuglsang and teammate Lutsenko are at the center of the allegations. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

The allegations are sweeping and the implications could be grave if proven, but it appears the report stops short of defining what degree of contact there was between Ferrari and the riders. The report, dated in the summer of 2019, suggests more investigation is warranted. It’s unclear if the CADF has followed up on the leaked report, or if the dossier has been officially passed on to pertinent anti-doping officials. The UCI released the following statement Monday morning:

“The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has learned of reports in certain media concerning supposed relations between Jakob Fuglsang and Michele Ferrari,” a UCI statement read. “As of today, the UCI has not received a report from the CADF in order to initiate proceedings against the individuals and the team mentioned. The CADF, the independent body mandated by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) to define and implement cycling’s anti-doping strategy, undertakes its investigations completely independently. Our Federation is following this case closely and will take the measures deemed appropriate in the interests of cycling.”

Active riders found consulting with Ferrari could face up to two-year bans, according to anti-doping rules.

So far, Astana and Fuglsang have not publicly commented on the reports other than to issue blanket denials. The various media quoted this statement from Astana and the riders: “They do not want to comment on a report based on indications and rumors, since there is no official message from UCI or CADF.”

Ferrari is one of the most notorious doping doctors in cycling, and any mention of return to the peloton would be cause for worry.

Ferrari has been active in cycling since the 1980s, and was a central figure in the Armstrong saga. The Texan received a lifetime ban after details of the extensive doping program that included EPO, blood transfusions, corticoids, testosterone and other products were revealed by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in 2012. Ferrari, who played a key role in the Armstrong scandal but denied he ever doped the Texan, has been linked to dozen of riders and teams over the past 30 years. Ferrari was also linked to a long-running investigation based in Padova, Italy. A report in 2014 concluded that 38 riders were Ferrari clients.

Ferrari also has links to Astana general manager Alexander Vinokourov, who received a two-year ban for blood doping in 2007. Vinokourov admitted working with Ferrari, but insisting it was only with training programs, and that he cut off contacts with Ferrari after 2007.

Astana boss Vinokourov was also linked to Ferrari in 2007. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

According to reports, CADF contracted with external consultants to follow-up on whistleblower reports that Ferrari, and his adult son, Stefano, were active again within the peloton. CADF put private investigators on the tail of riders in and around Monaco and Nice, France, popular spots for foreign riders as well as one of Ferrari’s former bases of operation.

“CADF has provided information indicating that Michele Ferrari is still involved in doping athletes on the Astana Pro Team, and has traveled to Monaco and other locations to meet cyclists,” the report states, according to VG and other media.

The strongest allegations were leveled against Fuglsang, who’s publicly insisted he’s a clean rider. The Dane won the silver medal in the 2016 Olympic Games and enjoyed a breakout year in 2019. Fuglsang, 34, won the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, recently extended his contract with Astana. By Monday morning, there were no official comments from Fuglsang or Astana released via social media platforms or websites.

The report was dated in the summer of 2019, and suggested that Ferrari was attending races that spring.

“In particular, intelligence from CADF indicates that Michele Ferrari was present during Vuelta a Catalunya with Astana in March 2019, has a base in Lugano in Switzerland, and that he recently met Fuglsang and Lutsenko in Nice and / or Monaco,” VG quoted the report.

“Due to their low profile and absence on social media, the connection between Michele Ferrari and son Stefano Ferrari, and riders from the Astana Pro Team, cannot be confirmed through open sources,” VG quoted the report. “In light of previous legal cases and surveillance conducted by the Italian authorities, the two are likely to take extreme precautions in connection with ongoing doping activities and try to hide their links to the cyclists.”

The reports come at a delicate time for international cycling. Despite assurances from cycling authorities and other key players that the peloton has cleaned up its act, there is a growing number of doping cases. Last month, the MPCC reported an increase in doping cases from 2018 to 2019, with a particular spike in Latin America.

UCI boss Lappartient recently spoke out about the need to be constantly alert for indications of doping. Photo: Tim De Waele | Getty Images

Also in 2018, Austrian and German authorities uncovered a blood-doping program involving Nordic skiers and professional cyclists in a scandal dubbed “Aderlass.”

The leak also came just days after the UCI confirmed it would shutter the CADF, and fold anti-doping operations into a new agency under the umbrella of the ICO and WADA.

Speaking to journalists last month in Australia, UCI president David Lappartient said anti-doping agencies can never let their collective guard down.

“We need to keep pushing because the number of doping cases actually increased worldwide,” Lappartient said. “Seventy-five percent of doping cases come from South America and specifically from five countries. That’s a concern for the UCI. I spoke to some of the national anti-doping organizations and federations, to put them under pressure to fight doping. We went to one country, did 12 tests and 12 were positive. That’s terrible, and we will continue to put pressure on them.”

Fuglsang is scheduled to make his season debut at the Ruta del Sol on February 19, while Lutsenko is scheduled to start the Tour de la Provence on February 13.