CONI, the Italian national Olympic committee, is to be given access to evidence of gathered by prosecutors as part of the Mantua investigation into doping in cycling which involves big names such as Alessandro Ballan and Damiano Cunego, with a preliminary hearing scheduled for Tuesday 30 April – just four days before the 2013 Giro d’Italia begins in Naples.
That date for that hearing, which will determine whether formal charges will be pressed against those under investigation, was fixed yesterday by preliminary hearing judge Gilberto Casari, who also permitted CONI to be joined to the case as a civil party, reports the Gazzetta dello Sport.
That authorisation came after the session was suspended for 40 minutes while Casari considered requests from lawyers representing various of those being investigated who had unsuccessfully sought to block CONI - which could ultimately bring separate charges relating to the sporting aspect - being joined to the action.
The investigation focuses to a pharmacist based in Mariana Mantovana, Guido Nigrelli, and his relationship with the Lampre team, with a number of past and present riders and staff among those implicated.
It is separate to another probe being conducted from Padua which focuses on banned doctor Michele Ferrari and his alleged relationship with riders from a variety of teams.
Among 31 people said to be potentially facing charges as a result of the Mantua investigation are former world champion Ballan, currently recovering from an horrific crash while training for the current season, plus 2004 Giro d’Italia winner, Cunego.
Also figuring on the list of suspects are former Lampre team manager and Giro d’Italia and world championship winner Giuseppe Saronni, Danish ex-pro Michael Rasmussen who confessed to doping earlier this year, and current riders including Astana’s Simone Ponzi, Vini Fantini-Selle Italia’s Mauro Santambrogio, and Daniele Pietropolli, now in his fourth season with Lampre.
The preliminary hearing will consider whether formal charges should be brought against those who have been implicated, as well as whether evidence obtained by phone-taps should be admissible.
It’s not the first time CONI has been involved in the long-running investigation; two years ago, its anti-doping prosecutor, Ettore Torri, summoned some of the riders implicated, including Ballan, for interviews at his offices in Rome, although he decided to take no further action pending a criminal trial taking place.
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.