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BRIOUDE, France (VN) — Making a discreet re-appearance this week at Paris-Nice after a tumultuous off-season is Lampre-Merida’s Michele Scarponi.
The Italian returned to Lampre late last month after serving a three-month ban during the winter for links to controversial doctor Michele Ferrari.
Speaking to VeloNews before the start of stage 3 at Paris-Nice, Scarponi wasn’t keen to give too much away about his situation.
“Things are good with the team. There is no situation. Things are like they always were,” Scarponi said. “Everything is resolved and that’s it.”
Part of the reason the 33-year-old Scarponi is staying mum is linked to a privacy clause in a deal hammered out between lawyers representing the 2011 Giro d’Italia champion and the team.
Lampre brass provisionally suspended Scarponi last winter when reports surfaced that he met with Ferrari in the fall of 2010.
Scarponi, however, denied anything more than consulting on two occasions with Ferrari, who has been banned from working with cyclists by Italian authorities since 2002. Anyone caught with links to Ferrari of any kind is open to bans from Italian authorities.
As part of that deal, Lampre brings Scarponi back into the fold through the end of the 2013 season on the condition that nothing more comes of alleged links between him and Ferrari.
If more information is revealed of a deeper relationship than Scarponi has indicated, he will be axed.
“We have an agreement with Scarponi that if something else comes out, he will leave the team,” Lampre spokesman Andrea Appiani told VeloNews via telephone. “There is an agreement for everyone. We hope there are no more problems.”
Scarponi already served an 18-month ban in 2007 for confessing links to Operación Puerto doping doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.
Scarponi, who inherited the 2011 Giro crown from the banned Alberto Contador, seems interested in putting the whole business behind him and resuming racing.
“There is no problem. I was off the bike and I am starting the season a little later,” he said. “After this, I will race [Volta a] Catalunya, [Giro di] Trentino, and then the Giro. That’s what I am focused on now.”
So far, Scarponi is holding up well at Paris-Nice, quietly poised in 20th at 18 seconds back going into Friday’s decisive climbing stage up Montagne de Lure.
“I am feeling pretty good at this race, considering it’s my first real race. Catalunya will be a big test and I am thinking about the Giro,” Scarponi said. “I still want to do every race well.”
Scarponi will be looking to improve on his fourth-place overall result last year, when he was knocked off the podium in the final-day time trial when Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) leapfrogged ahead of him.
With such powerhouses as Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) lining up in Naples on May 4, Scarponi admits that dreaming of victory could very well be just that.
“Wiggins is top of everyone. Nibali will be right on his heels for the win. And the rest of us will be fighting for a spot on the podium,” he said. “It will be a great Giro and I hope to be a protagonist.”
Complete statement from Lampre-Merida on Scarponi:
In the light of the events linked to the 2012 second semester, Team Lampre-Merida asked and obtained the correction of the agreements on which the professional relation with Scarponi were settled for the whole 2013.
During the negotiations, the parts were assisted by the respective attorneys Andrea Melocchi and Alessandro Sivelli.
The relationship between cyclist Michele Scarponi and Team Lampre-Merida will end on December 31st 2013. The athlete voluntarily endorsed the effort to resign from his position if further culpabilities linked to the sport and/or ordinary justice therefore contrasting the contract and the internal ethic code of the team.
At the end of the meetings series, it has been agreed that Michele Scarponi comes back racing in Gran Premio Città di Lugano on Sunday 24th of February 2013 and that he’ll perform a calendar of races that are suitable for the technical qualities of the athlete and that are compatible with the ethic and agonistic aims of Team Lampre-Merida.
This agreement is characterized by the privacy clause by both parts.