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By VeloNews Interactive wire services , Copyright AFP2002
The ongoing war of words over the death of Fausto Coppi continued Friday when an African cycling federation official disputed reports that the legendary Italian cyclist was not poisoned.
“Coppi was never poisoned,” said Adama Diallo, the secretary of the Burkina Faso cycling federation (FBC), answering allegations that Coppi was murdered in the country, when it was still known as Upper Volta, in 1960.
Diallo said he had consulted with Paul Ilboudo the secretary-general at the time of the incident who is now 70-years-old.
“We are very surprised that these allegations have resurfaced because we don’t poison people, it doesn’t happen in West Africa.” Officially, Coppi died after contracting malaria while he was on safari in the country.
But last week the sports newspaper Corriere dello Sport alleged that a French Benedictine monk had claimed the cyclist was murdered in revenge for the death of a man in the Ivory Coast.
In 1949 Coppi became the first man to win both the Tour of France and Giro d’Italia in the same year – a feat which he then repeated in 1952. He also won three more Giro titles in 1940, 1947 and 1953.
Italian magistrates have opened an inquiry into the allegation although at present the only items of evidence in the dossier are the reports in the newspaper. Authorities have confirmed that they are even considering exhuming the cycling legend’s body in order to conduct detailed toxicology tests. Speaking from St. Benoit Monastery at Koubri near Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou, the monk Brother Adrien, who is now 75-years-old, confirmed he was the monk who had told Italian sports administrator Mino Caudullo of the murder theory.
The monk confirmed that the motive for the murder – supposedly carried out with a slow acting herbal potion although Coppi was certified as having died from malaria – was related to revenge for the death of a rider from the Ivory Coast.
“Coppi was killed with a potion mixed with grass. Here in Burkina Faso this awful phenomenon still happens, people are still being killed like that,” said the monk. Coppi died in hospital on January 2, 1960 in Alessandria, Italy, soon after falling ill during a visit to the country in December.
Copyright AFP2002Related stories:
January 9, 2002 — Officials ponder Coppi exhumation January 7, 2002 — Coppi dossier handed over to local magistrates January 6, 2002 — Monk confirms Coppi murder claim January 5, 2002 — Report: Fausto Coppi was murdered