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Pantani murder case: Police blast ‘media lynching,’ plan to sue

Officials involved in the initial investigation of Pantani's death will sue to defend their reputations endangered by recent controversy

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MILAN (VN) — Marco Pantani’s death remains hotly disputed in Italy where a new inquiry is exploring the possible murder of the 1998 Giro d’Italia and Tour de France winner. Five investigating police officers, who worked on the scene February 14, 2004, in Rimini, asked their lawyers to sue those discrediting their work.

“It does not seem possible to remain silent and especially to continue to tolerate a media lynching,” their lawyers, Moreno Maresi and Mattia Lanciani told the Quotidiano Net website.

“It has assumed unacceptable proportions that seem fueled by a reconstruction of the facts, often misrepresented.”

The bald Italian climber from Cesena, near Rimini, was kicked out the 1999 Giro after failing an anti-doping test that indicated EPO use. Following a brief comeback that included two Tour stage wins in 2000, he died at Rimini’s Le Rose on February 14.

Police found the 34-year-old alone in his hotel room, with the doors and windows closed from the inside. Forensic scientists determined that Pantani, who already struggled with cocaine addiction, overdosed on the drug.

Pantani’s parents Tonina and Paolo argued foul play over the years, and in July, via lawyer Antonio De Rensis, they pushed Rimini’s public prosecutor to open a voluntary homicide inquiry. According to De Rensis, men forced their way into Pantani’s room, beat him and forced him to drink water that they diluted with lethal amounts of cocaine.

At the same time and in a separate inquiry in nearby Forlì, the public prosecutor is examining whether the mafia played a role in Pantani’s 1999 Giro d’Italia exclusion. According to rumors and alleged testimony, it had him kicked out of the Giro to affect bets.

The cases gather attention and headlines in Italy, where local fans still consider Pantani one of Italy’s greatest exports. This is despite evidence — which includes a 2013 French senate report that showed EPO use in the 1998 Tour — that Pantani doped in and out of cycling.

The police who investigated the Le Rose room have heard enough. The director of the group at the time, Sabatino Riccio with Giuseppe Lancini, Daniele Laghi, Vladimiro Marchini, and Walter Procucci, asked their lawyers to step in.

“Throughout this period, in full respect of an ongoing investigation, they have kept silent,” said the lawyers.

“But in front of the multiplication of the charges, always coming in sensationalist tone via media coverage from print, to video, to radio, and the internet, it does not seem possible to remain silent and continue to tolerate a media lynching.”

Italian journalist Andrea Rossini’s book “Delitto Pantani Ultimo Kilometro” (“The Pantani Crime The Last Kilometer — Secrets and Lies”), broke down the arguments and rumors surrounding the cyclist. The book, published Monday, is against the theory of murder and foul play.

English journalist Matt Rendell wrote a similar book in 2007, “The Death of Marco Pantani.” He told VeloNews that the two cases are gathering attention, but not much else.

“When you are passionate about someone like a sports star, it clouds your judgement,” Rendell said.

“In Italy, there’s a mistrust of the institutions. The sad thing in this case is that the Rimini and Forlì investigations were exemplary pieces of police work, but they are now being made to look corrupt and rubbish.”