Law enforcement officers in Sicily have carried out a search at a hotel on the island being used as a training base by Lampre-ISD rider Michele Scarponi, while colleagues in Brescia have requested biological passport information from Katusha regarding five riders, one of whom is no longer with the Russian team, according to Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.
The newspaper’s website says that Carabinieri from the Nuclei Antisofisticazioni e Sanità (NAS), which deals among other things with matters related to illegal drugs, carried out the search at the hotel where Scarponi, one of the favourites for next month’s Giro d’Italia, was presumably training for the Mount Etna stage of the race. The 31-year-old received an 18-month ban in 2007 for his links to Operacion Puerto.
The team said in a statement quoted by La Gazzetta that “having received a communication from the team’s medical chief, Dr Guardascione, with the intention of guaranteeing the fullest transparency, the NAS of Catania has carried out today [Thursday] a check at the Hotel Corsaro di Nicolosi, on Etna, where the rider Michele Scarponi is taking part in a training camp organised by the team. At the end of the operation, carried out in a climate of extreme cordiality and co-operation, the officers took away: packets of a common anti-inflammatory (Oki), powdered milk, and Enervit bars.”
Meanwhile, in a separate operation in the north of the country, NAS officers visited the Italian headquarters of Katusha at Lonato on Lake Garda and requested biological passport information on five riders.
In a statement quoted by the newspaper, the team said: “ The soldiers limited themselves to asking for the biological passports of five riders, one of whom no longer forms part of our team. Naturally we offered our full co-operation, giving the Carabinieri the requested documents.” The identity of the riders in question is not known.
The news coincides with the president of CONI, the Italian Olympic committee, calling for four-year bans for first offenders found guilty of doping offences, and lifetime bans for repeat offenders, and for similar measures to be taken against team staff, including management, medical staff and mechanics, found guilty of facilitating doping.
It also comes less than a week after the same newspaper reported that magistrates in Mantua were set to bring doping charges against BMC Racing’s Alessandro Ballan, sixth in Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix, and other members of the Lampre team he used to ride for.
Prosecutor Antnino Condorelli is reported to have secured evidence that former world champion Ballan underwent an illegal blood transfusion prior to the 2009 Giro d’Italia, and that action could also be taken against Damiano Cunego and team manager Giuseppe Saronni.
Charges are also reportedly being brought against the Dane Michael Rasmussen, who has never ridden for the Italian outfit, but who was sacked by his Rabobank team while leading the Tour de France in 2007 following a string of missed drugs tests and lying to his team about his whereabouts while training.
Prior to the 2007 Tour, Rasmussen had been spotted by Italian ex-pro and now TV commentator Davide Cassini training in the Dolomites, when according to his official schedule he should have been in Mexico.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.