Marco Pantani's parents warn authorities not to strip son of 1998 Tour de France win

Late cyclist who did 1998 Tour/Giro double expected to be confirmed as testing positive for EPO in 1998 Tour

by Simon_MacMichael   July 2, 2013  

Marco Pantani (Wikimedia Commons:Hein Ciere)

The parents of the late cyclist Marco Pantani have warned the UCI not to attempt to strip him of the 1998 Tour de France title if, as expected, the French Senate names him later this month as one of the riders testing positive for EPO during that race.

The Senate’s report on doping, which follows an inquiry concluded earlier this year, is due, to be published on 18 July, the same day as the 100th edition of the race tackles a double ascent of the Alpe d’Huez.

It is expected to name 44 riders whose samples returned positive results for EPO when they were retested in 2004; there was no test for EPO at the time of the 1998 Tour.

Pantani won the 1998 race, which was overshadowed by the Festina scandal, adding it to the Giro d’Italia title he had taken two months earlier, a double that no rider has subsequently achieved.

The letter from Paolo and Tonina Pantani, whose son died from acute cocaine poisoning in a Rimini hotel bedroom on Valentine’s Day 2004 in circumstances that have given rise to several conspiracy theories, is clearly drafted by a lawyer, possibly in part to head off any potential damage to the Pantani bicycle brand.

In the letter, extracts of which have been published on the website of Rome-based newspaper Il Messagero, the couple directly address UCI president Pat McQuaid, Renato di Rocca, president of the Italian federation the FCI, and Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France.

“We warn against taking any action which may strip Marco of the titles won by him on the road and against tackling the issue in any official premises or through the media, because to talk of a legally untenable provision could gravely damage the image of our son,” it reads.

“As happens also in [Italian] criminal law, death interrupts any current or future proceedings against the suspect and also impact on the crime, which is declared extinct, as is likewise declared extinct the penalty should the sentence have been passed in the meantime.

“Moreover, in sports law which is derived from the general principles of ordinary law in cases not expressly sanctioned, the accused’s rights to defence must be absolutely guaranteed in their entirety, without possibility of proxy.

“In all civilised countries the norms which govern the ascertation of relevant legal facts presuppose the safeguarding of the fundamental and inviolable right of defence. The same principle underpins the sporting regulatory norms which repeatedly and clearly provide the accused with a series of rights aimed at establishing the truth that can only arise from the cross-examination and the exercise of defensive guarantees.

“In our case we maintain that it is ignoble and above all unlawful to talk of inquiries and even of sanctions against a person who unfortunately cannot any longer defend himself nor instruct persons to can defend him.

“We however, for the love that ties us to him and for the feeling of justice that still informs us, do not intend to abdicate our duty to defend his image and his name.

“And it is for this reason that officially request that he not be spoken of as any other athlete still living, and it is also for this reason that we officially warn against undertaking any unlawful action that, being against the most fundamental rules of law, would blacken his name.”

Pantani never tested positive for doping during his career, although he was expelled from the 1999 Giro d’Italia while leading the race after a blood test revealed a haematocrit level of 52 per cent compared to the 50 per cent permitted maximum. He received a two-week suspension from racing.

He would never regain those heights he scaled in 1998, and eventually fell into depression and drug and alcohol addiction before his death at the age of 34.

The question of whether Pantani would actually be stripped of the 1998 Tour de France title if he were indeed revealed to have tested positive for EPO is a moot one.

An eight-year statute of limitations applies under the provisions of the World Anti-Doping Code, but that was not in force at the time.

Lance Armstrong was stripped of the seven consecutive Tour de France titles he won from 1999 onwards, with the United States Anti-Doping Agency treating the period from 1998 to his eventual retirement in 2011 as part of one continuous conspiracy, meaning that in its view the statute of limitations did not apply.

While the UCI contested USADA’s finding that Armstrong took drugs after returning from retirement in 2009, it did not formally challenge the decision through the Court of Arbitration for Sport; nor did the World Anti-Doping agency.

14 user comments

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Their request has a reasonable basis. A dead man cannot defend himself. So it is not fair to disgrace him. Despite what happened in the past.

posted by vasgko2 [21 posts]
2nd July 2013 - 20:10

7 Likes

Shame more concern about the brand rather than the memory of their son,

In my world I can do hills.

divingrob's picture

posted by divingrob [23 posts]
2nd July 2013 - 20:32

8 Likes

Nice excuse but very cheap to be trading on his name because he is 'conveniently' dead. He has to be compared to everyone else, and he falls right in the middle of a decade of dirty tours.



Suffering from Low Cadence.

bikeboy76's picture

posted by bikeboy76 [1289 posts]
2nd July 2013 - 21:18

8 Likes

He cannot be compared to everyone else though bikeboy.

Unfortunately you cannot charge or label someone who cannot be given reasonable time to defend themselves.

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [8855 posts]
2nd July 2013 - 22:05

10 Likes

bikeboy76 wrote:
Nice excuse but very cheap to be trading on his name because he is 'conveniently' dead.

I think most parents would rather have a live son than the money.

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
2nd July 2013 - 22:08

8 Likes

Defend himself? What would be his defence - that's not my blood?

posted by paulfg42 [375 posts]
2nd July 2013 - 22:18

8 Likes

paulfg42 wrote:
Defend himself? What would be his defence - that's not my blood?

"Let's wait for the B sample."

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
2nd July 2013 - 22:22

7 Likes

Gkam84 wrote:
He cannot be compared to everyone else though bikeboy.

Unfortunately you cannot charge or label someone who cannot be given reasonable time to defend themselves.

So everyone else like Riis, Armstrong, Landis loose their titles but Pantani can keep his because he is 'lucky' enough to have taken a coke overdose.
Legally the family have a point to protect their brand, but that is all it is, it's not the truth is it? He should be compared to his peers.



Suffering from Low Cadence.

bikeboy76's picture

posted by bikeboy76 [1289 posts]
2nd July 2013 - 23:48

12 Likes

So a probable doper is the tour winner, ahead of someone who is hopefully clean, because he cannot defend his positive test results?

Would a Court have stripped him of his results, irrespective of his defence? if so, apply the same penalty

posted by tao24 [41 posts]
2nd July 2013 - 23:50

5 Likes

bikeboy76 wrote:
Gkam84 wrote:
He cannot be compared to everyone else though bikeboy.

Unfortunately you cannot charge or label someone who cannot be given reasonable time to defend themselves.

So everyone else like Riis, Armstrong, Landis loose their titles but Pantani can keep his because he is 'lucky' enough to have taken a coke overdose.
Legally the family have a point to protect their brand, but that is all it is, it's not the truth is it? He should be compared to his peers.


Bjarne Riis has not been stripped of his Tour title.

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
3rd July 2013 - 0:33

6 Likes

A caveat: my opinion is probably more emotional than rational. I was one of the many that were in awe of Pantani's performances and still like seeing his exploits on youtube. Next to riders like Armstrong and Ullrich he was exciting - impulsive, vulnerable and hugely fallible. I shared the fantasy of being able to ride like Marco. I never wanted to emulate the others.

He was obviously doped to the gills. A positive test will merely confirm what all but the most ardent refuseniks knew a long time ago. As he is dead I cannot see how stripping him of his victories helps anyone - his family, current / retired riders or us.

Matt Rendell digs through the detail better than anyone in his book.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1963 posts]
3rd July 2013 - 13:41

8 Likes

i totally agree, don't strip his title, RIP Marco!!

posted by Karbon Kev [677 posts]
3rd July 2013 - 13:52

6 Likes

Well they can get round this by announcing his name as one of the 44 samples who tested positive, a fact that is undeniable, but then take no further action eg stripping titles (which would seem excessively punitive for the deceased and family)

The facts would then rightly be in the public domain. Cycling needs a full truth and reconciliation process to purge it's demons. There can be no more cover ups, regardless of the circumstances

also if a sports brand is trading on the image of success and excellence achieved in fair circumstances, without doping, then consumers need to know the truth.

posted by 700c [556 posts]
3rd July 2013 - 22:03

8 Likes

The Rumpo Kid wrote:
Bjarne Riis has not been stripped of his Tour title.

True, I was also thinking of Ullrich. Both still have their tours but both have an asterix by their names. They are part of a decade of dirty tours, followed by another 5 years of mucky tours.



Suffering from Low Cadence.

bikeboy76's picture

posted by bikeboy76 [1289 posts]
4th July 2013 - 13:30

7 Likes