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MILAN (VN) — A new investigation into the possible murder of Italian cyclist Marco Pantani took a step forward on Wednesday when Italy’s public prosecutor in Rimini handed the case over to the police. In 2004, police determined that the 1998 Giro d’Italia and Tour de France winner had died of a cocaine overdose.
Rimini’s head prosecutor Paolo Giovagnoli said Wednesday, “Regarding Marco Pantani’s death, there’s a completely new investigation.”
The cyclist from Cesena, along Italy’s northeastern shores, won stages in the 1998 Giro and Tour en route to winning the general classification in both races. He soared to cycling’s heights but fell just as quickly due to performance-enhanced doping and cocaine use.
He died in Rimini’s Le Rose hotel, just 35 kilometers from Cesena, on February 14, 2004. A previous investigation showed that the 34-year-old died of an accidental cocaine overdose.
The investigation found three men — Fabio Carlino, Fabio Miradossa, and Ciro Veneruso — guilty of supplying the cocaine that killed Pantani. Carlino organized the delivery of 30 grams of cocaine, Miradossa took the order in Naples, and Veneruso delivered it from Naples to Rimini.
Miradossa bargained for a four-year, 10-month prison sentence and Veneruso for three years, 10 months. The courts sentenced Carlino in 2008 to four years, six months in prison, and ordered him to pay 19,000 euros [$24,582] in fines and 300,000 euros [$388,141] in compensation to Pantani’s family. However, Italy’s highest court dropped the charges against Carlino in 2011.
Pantani’s parents Tonina and Paolo continued to argue foul play over the last 10 years. Their lawyer Antonio De Rensis re-examined the case, collected information, and presented it to Rimini’s prosecutor.
According to recent Italian newspaper reports, Pantani let known men into his room early on the morning of Valentine’s Day. The unidentified men hit the cyclist, according to the reports, forced him to drink cocaine diluted in water, and carried his body down the stairs of the bi-level room. They allegedly left the room looking disorganized and left Pantani to die.
The case was re-opened in August after De Rensis presented his work, and took its first official step forward on Wednesday when Giovagnoli passed it to the judicial police of Rimini. More information is likely to emerge over the coming months as state medical experts examine the assumptions made by Francesco Maria Avato, a legal medical expert the Pantanis hired for its case.
Avato pointed out wounds on Pantani’s body that appeared to be from others and not caused by a fall, drag marks on the floor from his body, and the quantity of cocaine found in his system that was suggested it was consumed in another way.
De Rensis’ work identified a water bottle in the room that was never analyzed and speculated that the men may have used it for diluting cocaine.