Di Luca doping case widens, Vini Fantini called in

The Italian rider's latest doping issue stems from a positive EPO test taken before the Giro

MILAN (VN) — The Danilo Di Luca doping case may take a new turn Monday when the Italian federation hears team Vini Fantini-Selle Italia’s top brass in Rome.

“Our initiative is in agreement with the anti-doping prosecutor, Ettore Torri,” the federation’s head prosecutor, Giovani Grauso, told Corriere dello Sport. “He takes care of the cyclist and doping, and we will proceed with leaders of the cycling team to see if someone helped.”

Di Luca tested positive for the blood booster EPO on April 29 in a pre-Giro d’Italia control. Though Frenchman Sylvain Georges (Ag2r La Mondiale) was already booted from the race for the stimulant Heptaminol, the announcement of Di Luca’s result on May 24, the snow day, unsettled the Corsa Rosa.

“It feels as though I lost the Giro,” eventual winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) reacted to the news that day. “It’s a complete disappointment. How can you explain it to the fans, to those that don’t watch the sport often, that this is a clean sport?”

Italy’s sporting branches, the Olympic Committee (CONI) and the national federation (FCI), took note. They called in the team and Di Luca.

Drug-fueled career

A second division team, Vini Fantini offered Di Luca a contract a week before the Giro started. He was chosen to ride on the nine-man team at the year’s first grand tour.

Di Luca won the 2007 edition, but he had suspicious results from urine tests taken during the race. He escaped consequences, but served two other doping suspensions.

Documents uncovered in the 2004 Oil for Drugs investigation showed Di Luca used EPO. At the end of 2007, he served a three-month ban. He was caught using EPO again after winning two stages and placing second to Denis Menchov in the 2009 Giro.

Katusha signed him after his ban ended for the 2011 season, but received little in return. Di Luca returned home to Abruzzo and signed with his region’s Acqua & Sapone team. Again, he did little and when the team folded, found himself without a job.

Questions for Vini Fantini

Grauso wants to know why Vini Fantini gave him a place and just what the team knew. Grauso scheduled appointments on June 14 for everyone, from the top brass to the riders. The team asked for and received an earlier date: Monday, June 3.

Vini Fantini owner Valentino Sciotti, team manager Angelo Citracca, sports director Luca Scinto, and doctor Daniele Tarsi are due in Grauso’s offices. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, the questions are not just about signing a former dope cheat, but the abuse of legal and banned drugs as well.

Mauro Santambrogio, who won stage 14 at the Giro, and other Vini Fantini riders might also be called in for a second hearing, according to the newspaper, to explain what they knew about Di Luca and about the team’s inner-workings.

“It’s only right that they visit, there was a doping case,” team press officer Francesco Pelosi told VeloNews. “It is about Di Luca, however. And we have no idea what La Gazzetta dello Sport’s article means by using legal drugs. If they are legal, where’s the problem?”

Torri and Grauso will sort out the problems and what has become a black mark on Nibali’s pink dream and Italian cycling.