An inquest into the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of fallen Italian cycling hero Marco Pantani has found that he died of a cocaine overdose, the Ansa news agency reported Friday.
“The death of Marco Pantani was caused by acute cocaine intoxication,” according to the draft report by doctor Giuseppe Fortuni for prosecutor Paolo Gengarelli.
The report found that there was not enough evidence to support the theory of suicide and that Pantani died as a result of swelling to the brain and lung tissue as a result of cocaine poisoning.
“Acute cocaine intoxication provoked a pulmonary and cerebral oedema (fluid) which were the cause of death,” the report concluded. “There are no concrete elements to support the hypothesis of suicide.” The complete report is to be published in two weeks, according to Reuters.
Pantani, 34, was found dead in a Rimini hotel room on February 14, and several packets of half-empty sedatives were found near his body. The Italian was also known to have had a cocaine habit, and police have been searching for suspects who may have supplied him with the drug.
Pantani’s death shocked the whole of Italy and the cycling world. At his funeral thousands of fans turned up to pay their last respects to a rider who, after spectacularly winning the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia in 1998, spent his last years defending himself against doping allegations.
Pantani was dramatically thrown off the 1999 Giro for having an abnormally high hematocrit – an indication, although not proof, of the presence of the blood-boosting drug EPO. –Copyright 2004/AFP