Former world champion and 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans has admitted that he consulted the controversial doctor Michele Ferrari. However, he says that they only met once, in 2000, before the Italian authorities banned Ferrari from working with cyclists, and only to conduct a VAM test, which measures maximum aerobic speed, prior to his switch to road cycling.
Since 2002, riders registered with the Italian federation or UCI-registered riders present in Italy have been barred from associating with Ferrari, who earlier this year was handed a lifetime ban by the United States Anti Doping Agency for his part in the US Postal scandal.
Ferrari is currently at the centre of an investigation in Italy in which he is alleged to be the mastermind of a €30 million doping ring involving cyclists and athletes from other sports.
"I have never seen or had contact before or after this test," Evans told Australian broadcaster SBS, reports Stuff.co.nz.
"There was never any discussion of doping or any sign of anything illegal.
"My only motive at the time... was to understand my capabilities as a road rider.
"At that time, Mr Ferrari's opinion was very highly regarded by teams and team managers, and therefore helpful for me to gain opportunities with road teams."
Evans later began working with the Mapei Centre’s Dr Also Sassi, a very strong and outpoken opponent of doping, and after a series of near-misses in the Tour de France, including finishing second in 2007 and 2008, their collaboration resulted in his winning the world championships in Mendrisio, Swizerland in 2009.
He would go on to become the first Australian to win the Tour de France in July 2011, seven months after Sassi had died from a brain tumour.
With the BMC rider’s victory coming the year after Alberto Contador had tested positive on the race for clenbuterol – that case was still dragging on at the time and the Spaniard rode in the 2011 edition, finishing fifth overall – his win was widely seen as a triumph for clean cycling.
Ferrari stated on his website last year that he had been contacted by Evans managers in 2000 at the point when the Australian was switching from mountain biking to road cycling, since they wanted to gauge his performance on ascents.
The results of the VAM test conducted convinced Evans to focus full-time on the road, and he joined the Saeco team in 2001.
The fact that Evans went public about that single meeting with Ferrari reflects the sensitivity in Australia to the fallout from the US Postal scandal, which has claimed two high-profile scalps there in the shape of Cycling Australia’s men’ road performance co-ordinator Matt White and the governing body’s vice-president, Stephen Hodge, both of whom have admitted doping during their racing careers.
Evans’ manager, Jason Bakker, said: "I have absolute and utter faith in Cadel Evans – he's a man of the highest principles that I have met, without doubt."
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.