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MILAN (VN) — A certain Ferrari is leaving plenty of pollution in its wake. Italian Michele Ferrari, despite being banned by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in Lance Armstrong’s doping case, is still operating and causing headaches.
Filippo Pozzato, suspended yesterday for three months, is but one of a number of riders facing scrutiny over ties to the banned Italian doctor.
“He was my trainer, but there was never anything illegal going on,” Pozzato said, according to Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport.
But for the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), the connection was too much. The doctor from Ferrara has been banned from practicing in Italy since 2002 and as of July 10, banned worldwide. Pozzato (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) worked with him for five years, from 2005 to 2010, and paid up to €50,000 for what he said were training plans. Yesterday, the Italian anti-doping tribunal (TNA) issued him a three-month ban and officially linked him to doping for life — a mark that excludes Pozzato indefinitely from riding with the Italian National Team.
Others find themselves in the crosshairs as well.
Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) inherited last year’s Giro d’Italia title after Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) lost it in a separate doping investigation. Along the way, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport, he worked with Ferrari. Twice in 2010 he visited the doctor south of Modena in Monzuno for tests. Scarponi has a hearing coming up with the CONI and could face a lifetime ban as he already sat out as part of the Operación Puerto investigation.
Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) wanted to race on Italy’s worlds team this month, but has been in hot water since public prosecutors started tracking payments to Ferrari’s alleged Swiss bank accounts. He, Leonardo Bertagnolli and several Katusha riders had their belongings searched in April 2011 by anti-narcotics police. Visconti, the Italian national road champion in 2007, 2010 and 2011, met with the CONI prosecutor, Ettore Torri on June 27 and waved goodbye to any chance of racing for the national team. As the Italian cycling federation (FCI) president Renato Di Rocco told VeloNews, “The CONI prosecutor assured me it has significant evidence” against Visconti.
Daniel Coyle described Ferrari with dark hair and darty eyes in his book, “Lance Armstrong’s War”. He wrote, “he wore… a broad, teasing smile” and was referred to as Dr. Evil. The name came partly from his connection to doping. He trained under Professor Francesco Conconi, who guided some of the first pros towards EPO use.
“Cyclists went to be tested by Conconi and would come back flying. Incredible!” the late, respected trainer, Aldo Sassi told Cycle Sport in 2010. He added with a laugh, “he is a very good trainer!”
Ferrari took Conconi’s methods and expanded on them with his clients, the most famous of which was Armstrong. As part of the Armstrong case, USADA charged him with supplying the Texan and some of his teammates with EPO and testosterone and helping with banned methods, like blood transfusions. When Ferrari failed to respond to the charges, USADA banned him for life. He continues to contribute regular training articles to the website www.53×12.com, however.
It is not only cyclists that have mixed with Ferrari. The 2008 Olympic race walk champion Alex Schwazer admitted he consulted Ferrari after being booted out of the London Games for a failed doping test. He said he used EPO, but that he only received training advice from Ferrari. It is a similar story to what Pozzato said yesterday in Rome, and what Scarponi, Visconti and the others linked to “Dr. Evil” say.