The grief-stricken mother of Italian cycling great Marco Pantani blamedanti-doping investigators Tuesday for driving her son to his death.An initial autopsy Monday revealed Pantani, a former Tour de Francewinner, died from accumulated fluid in the brain and lungs. The 34-year-oldhad been at the center of a series of legal probes into doping.”They murdered him,” Tonina Pantani was quoted as saying in La Gazzettadello Sport ahead of a church ceremony honoring the cyclist in hishometown of Cesenatico.The body of Pantani will be dressed in a dark blue suit and a trademarkblack bandana, which earned him the nickname il Pirata, the newsagency ANSA said, citing hospital sources.At the family’s request, the coffin lid will be kept closed and visitorsto the church will be limited. Pantani’s body was discovered in a Riminihotel room Saturday night.Pantani was one of Italy’s most popular sportsmen until the 1999 Girod’Italia when he was thrown out of the race for having an elevated hematocrit (red blood cell) level. The test had been established two years earlier to find indications that a rider might be using the performance-enhancing drug EPO.Monday’s autopsy showed Pantani died from fluids in the brain and lungs butfailed to explain what triggered the fatal edema.The pathologist in charge of the autopsy excluded violence as a causeof death. He said his investigation would take weeks to complete and therewere no initial signs that a cocktail of drugs was to blame.Pantani persecuted
Pantani’s former manager at Mercatone Uno said the rider, whowon the Tour and Giro d’Italia in 1998, had been persecuted by magistrates.”Behind his mother’s grief there are all the torments of the last fewyears: an inhuman calvary, I can’t describe it,” Beppe Martinelli toldjournalists. “The persecution lasted from 1999.”From that moment on Pantani was a marked man, family and friends say,as Italian magistrates brought a series of civil actions against him forsporting fraud.The trial relating to his 1999 Giro positive test was resolved lastOctober when a court threw out the earlier guilty verdict because his offencewas not a civil crime at the time.Pantani was also investigated by a Turin magistrate over high haemocritlevels during the Milan to Turin race of 1995.Had he lived the cyclist would have faced a third trial, this time fordoping and sporting fraud at the 2001 Giro d’Italia when a syringe of insulinwas found in his hotel room.The doctor who persuaded Pantani to book into a clinic for the treatmentof depression and drug addiction last year said he was dismayed by theintrusive behavior of the press.”You can’t judge a person by a single mistake. Every one of us is thesum of many mistakes,” Giuseppe Greco was quoted as saying in La Gazzetta.Dozens of Pantani’s fans have flocked to the Rimini hospital where thecyclist’s body is being held before being transferred to Cesenatico nearthe Adriatic coast.Up to 40,000 people were expected to head to the small town for hisfuneral Wednesday.