MILAN (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali’s trainer Paolo Slongo called the alleged links between him and Michele Ferrari “nonsense” and sued the journalists who wrote Monday he was in “frequent contact” with the banned doping doctor.
“I saw the articles, the one in La Repubblica. It’s not a serious thing, but something that someone has invented,” Slongo told VeloNews.
“It ruins my image. If you don’t know someone, you can be misled to thinking it’s true. La Repubblica‘s journalists have been sued, so we’ll see how they respond.”
La Repubblica reported Monday on the now-closed investigation in Padua. It centered on Dr. Ferrari and his clients between 2010 and 2011, allegedly involving 38 cyclists.
The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) now has in its hands 550 pages of case-related material, part of which allegedly says Slongo worked with Ferrari. La Repubblica reported that police said in the pages that Slongo was in “frequent contact” with Ferrari.
Licensed athletes in Italy, including coaches, have been prohibited from working with Ferrari since 2002. In 2012, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) case against Lance Armstrong led to a worldwide, lifetime suspension for Ferrari, who the agency said doped his athletes with EPO, testosterone, and blood transfusions.
Ferrari joked Wednesday about the alleged “frequent contact” he had with Slongo.
“He would have, according to the investigators, ‘frequent contact,'” wrote Ferrari. “Yes, of course, every morning, in front of the buffet breakfast at the hotel Parador del Teide, with the topic: ‘Is it better to have eggs with bacon or muesli with yogurt?'”
Slongo said he did not see Ferrari often or at the buffet on Spain’s Tenerife island, a high-altitude paradise for training athletes.
“No, no. In the end, that’s a piece of nonsense, in my opinion too. Everyone writes what they want,” Slongo added.
“One time, when I went there with Liquigas, he was also there, but that I worked with, wrote an e-mail, or called … La Repubblica says that there are many exchanges, but I’ve never done anything. I read it, too, but it almost had me laughing when they come up with something like that.”
Slongo began with Liquigas in 2008 after coaching at the junior ranks. He helped Nibali win the Vuelta a España in 2010 and stayed with the team, as it changed names to Cannondale, through 2013.
Nibali convinced him to join Astana for the 2014 season. Slongo agreed, and said he was encouraged by the idea of helping a rider win the Tour de France. Nibali won this year’s Tour.
“I you read the 550 pages, there’s never my name or Nibali’s. You can’t just go and write that we are working with Ferrari,” Slongo continued.
“My mom, my grandma, my aunt, my relatives, they read it and were hurt. I know that this happens in cycling, but they can’t really understand it.”
The newspaper also reported there were no charges against Nibali, but that his helper Paolo Tiralongo went to doping doctor Eufemiano Fuentes for “oil changes,” or blood transfusions.
Slongo said his lawyer sued journalists Giuliano Foschini and Marco Mensurati for damages on Tuesday and that he wants the Rome-based newspaper to issue an apology. He explained that Nibali and Tiralongo also sued.