Michele Scarponi, awarded the 2011 Giro d’Italia title after Alberto Contador was stripped of it earlier this year, could himself face a six-month suspension for allegedly consulting with sports doctor Michele Ferrari as the ongoing Padova-based enquiry into doping reaches a key stage. The potential penalty is one stipulated by the Italian Cycling Federation (FCI) for any rider licensed by it caught associating with Ferrari after it banned him from any involvement in sport in 2002.
Scarponi, who missed out on a podium place in this year’s Giro due to Thomas De Gendt’s heroics on the final weekend, is one of three riders summoned by Coni to answer questions next Wednesday about their contact with the doctor, the others being three-time Italian national champion Giovanni Visconti of Movistar and Scarponi’s Lampre-ISD team mate, Leonardo Bertagnolli, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Last week it emerged that Filippo Pozzato, formerly with Katusha and now at Farese Vini, had admitted following training plans devised in consultation with Ferrari between 2004 and 2009, although the rider denied having used any doping products and said that he ended the relationship when he realised he might be subject to disciplinary proceedings.
The Padova investigation has been led by public prosecutor Benedetto Roberti, who together with law enforcement officials from the Guardia di Finanza and Carabinieri has spent the past two years sifting through intercepted telephone calls and emails as well as Swiss bank accounts in an effort to unravel details of the suspected doping ring.
As part of their enquiries, Scarponi’s house was searched in April 2011 while he was on Sicily preparing for the Mount Etna stage of that year’s Giro; the rider had previously been banned for 18 months after admitting his involvement in Operacion Puerto, the Spanish case centred around another sports doctor, the Spaniard Eufemiano Fuentes.
According to the Gazzetta dello Sport, the 32-year-old visited Ferrari twice for tests in September 2010, when he was riding for Androni Giocattoli; the newspaper adds that he ceased contact with the doctor when he joined Lampre at the end of that year. Since then, in common with his team mates, his race preparation has been conducted by the Centro Mapei.
The Gazzetta adds that other riders potentially implicated in the Padova investigation include former Giro and Vuelta winner Denis Menchov and world championship and Olympic medallist Alexander Kolobnev, both now with Katusha.
The Russia-registered team’s Italian base was searched last year – Menchov was riding for the now-defunct Geox TMC at the time – while Kolobnev, who failed a drugs test at last year’s Tour de France while racing for Katusha, rejoined the team this year after the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected an appeal from the UCI against the Russian Federation’s decision not to ban him, on the grounds that the over-the-counter medicine in question had been recommended by his doctor.
Ferrari was himself charged last week by the US Anti Doping Agency (USADA) along with Lance Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel and others in connection with what is alleged to have been a “massive doping conspirancy,” and it is believed that those involved with the Padua enquiry have been exchanging information with their counterparts in the United States.
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.