By VeloNews Interactive wire services, Copyright AFP2002
The man who knows a thing or two about drug scandals, Marco Pantani, has rushed to the defense of his former teammate Stefano Garzelli who has failed a dope test.
“Until it’s proved to the contrary he has the right to be innocent,” said Pantani, who was himself thrown out of the 1999 Giro for failing a blood test.
Garzelli, who now rides for Mapei, competed in Saturday’s sixth stage despite testing positive for the diuretic probenicid, which has drug-masking qualities.
He has vowed to retire from the sport if a second B-sample provided a positive drugs test.
The 32-year-old Pantani was thrown out of the 1999 Tour while wearing the leader’s pink jersey after giving a blood hematocrit reading above 50 percent.
Both riders were on Mercatone Uno when Garzelli largely contributed to Pantani’s Giro and Tour de France double in 1998. Garzelli was a member of the same team when he won the 2000 Giro.
“When I spoke about a conspiracy everyone laughed in my face. Now it’s the same people who are talking about a conspiracy,” claimed Pantani.
Pantani, who started the day in 64th place in the Giro at 5:14 behind leader Garzelli, said that he spoken to his former lieutenant before the Saturday’s sixth stage. “I told him that the wheel of fortune goes around,” said Pantani.