Officials say exact cause still to be determined
By VeloNews Interactive, Copyright AFP2004
Marco Pantani died of a heart attack and showed signs of cerebral edema and lung damage, according to initial reports from an autopsy carried out in Italy on Monday.
Officials conducting the autopsy said it may be up to 60 days before they know the exact cause of death for the man who won both the Giro d’ Italia and Tour de France in 1998.
“We can’t rule out any cause of death,” said Professor Giuseppe Fortuni after the autopsy. “Today’s autopsy is only the first in a long series of tests. It will be a few weeks before we know the exact cause of death.”
Pantani, a former winner of the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia, both in 1998, was found dead at 34 on Saturday in a hotel room in the Adriatic coastal resort of Rimini.
“We will make very precise exams in the laboratory in addition to those of the clinical type,” Fortuni said. “We will then have microscopic exams and consider all hypotheses excluding none of them. We are just at the first phase.”
Fortuni said Pantani had a cerebral edema, or an excess of water on the brain, and his lungs were congested.
Funeral set for Wednesday
Marco Pantani’s family is preparing a funeral for Wednesday, according to the Italian wire service ANSA. A ceremony will be held in the square at the St. Giacomo church in Pantani’s hometown of Cesenatico. The town has also called for a day of mourning for Pantani.
According to notes in his hotel room, Pantani believed he was being persecuted for his doping record, reports said Monday.
While Monday’s autopsy suggests a medical cause for his death, notes found in the room clearly indicate that he was a very troubled man. “They only want to punish me,” the 34-year-old was reported to have written on note paper found in his Rimini hotel room, La Repubblica newspaper reported on Monday.
Italian press reports have said scribbled notes were found at his side when his half-naked body was discovered, in which he suggested he was addicted to cocaine and wanted to go to a detoxification clinic.
Another scribbled note said: “No-one has been able to understand me, not even in cycling, not even my family. I’ve ended up alone.”
“I am excluding any idea of a suicide until such time as we have the full results of the autopsy,” said local prosecutor Paolo Gengarelli.
Gengarelli said he was awaiting the results of the autopsy to help him reconstruct the last hours before Pantani’s death, but officials said it may be several weeks before a precise cause of death is determined.
Newspapers expanded on the cocaine theory, saying Pantani had planned to go for treatment in a clinic in Bolivia run by his friend, Father Pierino Gelmini, who also runs a similar project in Italy.
“He wanted to get away from the glare of publicity,” Gelmini told the Corriere della Sera. “Pantani refused to go to a clinic here. In Italy it would have created a media circus and he didn’t want that. He was worried what the newspapers would say and he just wanted to be left in peace. The idea was to take him somewhere where nobody could see him or judge him.”
Police told a news conference on Sunday that the tranquilizers were prescription drugs, and that some of the packets were empty and some started. Gengarelli added that Pantani had effectively secluded himself in the room for five days and left it only for breakfast.
Last year, Pantani checked into a clinic that specialized in depression and drug addiction. A number of riders have spoken about how Pantani had been affected since his career was derailed by doping allegations in 1999.
Pantani’s friend, 1986 world champion Moreno Argentin, told reporters that Pantani was an angry and troubled man in his final weeks.
“The last time I saw him, he was extremely bitter, a changed man,” Argentin said. Belgian cycling legend Eddy Merckx hit out at the Italian judicial system.
“After his success in the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in the same yearPantani certainly made mistakes – but he was targeted by an Italian justicesystem that never let him go,” Merckx said. “I believe it was that that destroyed him.” In October, an Italian court cleared Pantani of the charge of sporting fraud that dated back to an elevated hematocrit level found in blood samples from a 1995 accident and to the doping scandal that engulfed his ejection from the 1999 Giro d’Italia.
The flamboyant rider, who won both the Tour and Giro in 1998, made an emotional comeback to cycling last year after years of wrangling with the authorities over alleged drug-taking.
Pantanifound dead in Italian hotel.
Toppros react to Pantani’s death.
MarcoPantani: A tragic figure.
Policebegin Pantani investigation.
Care to comment? Send letters to WebLetters@7Dogs.com. Please include your full name, and home town. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.