By VeloNews Interactive wire services
Italian police on Friday arrested four alleged drug dealers suspected of supplying cocaine to Italian cycling great Marco Pantani, who died of an overdose in February.
Police sources had said they were pursuing one person they believed supplied the deadly dose to the 1998 Tour de France winner. Pantani was found dead in a hotel room in the coastal resort town of Rimini on February 14.
“Searches are still under way,” a Rimini police official told Reuters. He added there would be a news conference later in the day.
Pantani won the Giro d’Italia in 1998 but was disqualified while leading the race in 1999 after failing a test for hematocrit – an indicator, though not proof, of the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
In March, the doctor who carried out an autopsy on Pantani said the 34-year-old had died of an accidental cocaine overdose and ruled out suicide despite widespread speculation. – Reuters
Aussies grab gold at World Cup opener
Australia won three of the six gold medals on offer on the opening night of the Cycling World Cup in Sydney on Friday.
Former keirin world champion champion Jobie Dajka won the event and also qualified for the Athens Olympics, while Anna Meares took out the women’s sprint final and Alexis Rhodes surprised in winning the 20km points race.
Other winners were Dutchman Robert Slippers in the 15km scratch race final, Britain’s Paul Manning in the men’s individual pursuit, and Britain’s Chris Hoy in the kilometer time trial.
While the Australian team has yet to be ratified, Dajka booked his ticket to Athens by making it through to the final. The 22-year-old, who this week returned from competing in Japan’s International Keirin Series, went into the race as the current overall World Cup leader, having scored silver in both the Moscow and Mexico rounds. He surged from the back of the field in the final 200 meters to claim gold.
“I just had to be patient,” said the 2002 keirin world champion. “I knew the guys in front would slow. Racing in Japan has been good preparation for this and for the world championships, where I want to reclaim my world title.” At last year’s world’s in Stuttgart, Germany, he finished second behind Frenchman Laurent Gane in both the keirin and the sprint.
Meares was edged out in the first race of her semi-final by Canadian Commonwealth Games silver medalist Lori-Ann Muezner, but came back strongly to take out the next two races to progress to the final. She beat American Tanya Lindenmuth to claim the gold.
“I didn’t make any tactical errors tonight so I’m very happy about the performance,” said Meares. “I’ve never sprinted against Tanya before, so it was good experience and it helped me develop some new tactics.”
Rhodes, 19, powered home to win the women’s 20km points race in her first senior year of cycling, but she was unlikely to qualify as one of three members for the women’s team in Athens. – AFP contributed to this report