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Pozzato in hot water over Ferrari link

Italian facing CONI meeting Tuesday when he arrives for pre-Olympic testing

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MILAN, Italy (VN) — Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) faces a ban of six months if the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) confirms alleged links with Lance Armstrong’s infamous trainer, Michele Ferrari. Today, the CONI announced that one of its anti-doping prosecutors would hear the Italian on Tuesday in Rome at 12:30 p.m. local time.

“To be heard,” it said, “in light of recent news articles.”

Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper printed an article Saturday with telephone transcripts of Pozzato admitting he worked with Ferrari. “I asked to go to Ferrari myself,” the newspaper reported him saying in 2009. “I wanted to go to Ferrari myself. We’re grown-ups, aren’t we?… If you have a teammate in your room that’s taking something then it’s logical that you’re taking it too.”

As part of the conversation, it emerged Ferrari charged €40,000 to €50,000 [$50,500 to $63,000] a year for his services.

Italian courts acquitted Ferrari in 2006 of criminal charges alleging that he distributed banned substances, but the CONI barred him from training cyclists in Italy. Working with Ferrari, be it via telephone calls or emails, can bring about a six-month ban.

Pozzato placed second in the Tour of Flanders and had a good spring campaign despite fracturing his collarbone in the Tour of Qatar. However, his hopes of leading Italy in the Olympics and world championships will hinge on Tuesday’s hearing. Italy wants to avoid a situation like 2008, when Davide Rebellin won a silver medal in the Beijing Olympics behind Spain’s Samuel Sánchez, but then had to give it back when tests revealed he doped with EPO-CERA.

Pozzato returned from a fracture in his right hand suffered in the Giro d’Italia to race in the Tour of Slovenia last week. He skipped Sunday’s final time trial stage to head to Rome. A Farnese Vini spokesperson told VeloNews on Monday that Pozzato planned to travel there regardless for testing as part of the Olympic pre-selection process. He decided to meet immediately with CONI’s anti-doping prosecutor to state his side. If all goes well, he’ll race in the Tour of Austria and Poland leading towards London and the worlds. If not, he may become a casualty of the U.S. federal investigation into Lance Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel, Ferrari and others with the U.S. Postal Service team.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) last Tuesday opened formal action against Ferrari, Armstrong and four others. The action comes after the federal government in February closed its investigation. As part of that Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigation, agent Jeff Novitzky worked with Italian prosecutor Benedetto Roberti, who collected evidence as part of his own investigation. Roberti supplied evidence to the FDA and found reason to target Pozzato and others.

Pozzato says he’s innocent.

“We have repeatedly checked with the Prosecutor of Padova [Roberti] and other anti-doping prosecutors, and my client is not registered in any investigation,” Pozzato’s lawyer, Pierfilippo Capello said. “From the criminal point of view, there is currently no investigation against Pozzato and the same can be said from the sporting point of view.”

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