MILAN (VN) — Liquigas-Cannondale’s press office sent out a rushed statement today to rebut claims that its staff knew about its riders working with Michele Ferrari. The doctor, banned twice over doping cases, was linked recently with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s case against Lance Armstrong.
“We are putting out a statement today to respond to those things,” team manager Roberto Amadio told VeloNews. “There’s nothing left to say. We will clarify it in the press release and it will end there.”
Overnight the anti-doping agency USADA made the supporting evidence in its case against Armstrong available to the public. There are many videos, photos and PDFs to sift through; however, one sticks out. Of the 15 affidavits, two are from Italians and one — Leonardo Bertagnolli’s — implicates Liquigas.
Bertagnolli raced with Liquigas during 2007-08. The Italian said in his affidavit dated May 18, 2011, that he and his teammates worked with Ferrari and that management knew. He added he paid Ferrari 12,000 euros in 2007 and obtained EPO from him.
“I returned to Ferrari toward the end of 2006, having had a contract with Liquigas for the following year,” Bertagnolli said. “I was suffering from a thyroid problem and I was thinking of going to Ferrari to resolve the problem. I asked all the staff at Liquigas to be able to frequent him to solve my problems and no one had any objections.”
The Ferrara-based doctor has been banned from practicing in Italy since 2002. USADA levied a worldwide ban July 10. Anyone working with Ferrari, even via training plans, risks at least a six-month ban. Italian courts recently gave Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini) a comparatively light three-month suspension for visiting Ferrari.
Bertagnolli continued: “I know that many of my teammates went to Ferrari because we talked about it and the team knew: (Franco) Pellizotti, (Roman) Kreuziger, (Enrico) Gasparotto, (Francesco) Chicchi.” He also mentioned Morris Possoni and one of Francesco Moser’s nephews.
He added that Ferrari taught him how to use blood transfusions and what type of refrigerator to buy for blood storage.
“I only did it once (a transfusion) in the summer of 2008 because in that time Liquigas prohibited me from frequenting Ferrari, a change in attitude from before when it was tolerated.”
Amadio confirmed to VeloNews that during 2006-07, the riders had their own trainers.
“Then, in 2008, we had our own trainer,” he said. “It was normal at that time (before) that a rider would go to his own trainer. … It’s Bertagnolli’s problem, not mine. The team is calm, we don’t have any reason to worry.”
When asked if Liquigas knew its riders were visiting Ferrari, Amadio said to wait for the press statement. After VeloNews spoke with Amadio, Liquigas sent out its statement denying claims that the team knew Bertagnolli visited Ferrari.
The Union Cycliste International (UCI) caught Pellizotti with abnormal biological passport readings in 2010. After a ban, he races with Androni. Chicchi races for Omega Pharma-Quick Step and plans to transfer to Vini Fantini-Selle Italia. Gasparotto and Kreuziger race with Astana.
“We are calm, in that period they were with Liquigas and so it’s not important,” Astana team manager Giuseppe Martinelli told VeloNews. “I’m not going start bandaging wounds that don’t exist. They are personal things, if the riders have made a mistake, they will pay. However, it’s not occupying much of my attention now.”
Bertagnolli left Liquigas for the 2009 season and during the last two years raced for Lampre. He indicated he stopped visiting Ferrari in 2010, when he paid him 3000 euros. In June, the UCI signaled him over abnormal biological passport readings. He retired immediately.
Liquigas, however, risks further problems if investigators prove it knew of its riders visiting Ferrari.