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Punishment consistent with previous action by CONI, but could Padua investigation result in further action?

The anti-doping tribunal of CONI, the Italian Olympic Committee, has banned Lampre rider Michele Scarponi for three months, backdated to 1 October, and fined him €10,000 as a result of his having trained in late 2010 with controversial sports doctor Michele Ferrari. While the sentence seems lenient, the reality behind it is rather more complicated and it’s possible Scarponi could face further action in connection with the ongoing Padua investigation into alleged doping and money laundering.

CONI took action against Scarponi after the cyclist himself admitted in October that he had trained with Ferrari on two occasions in late 2010, after his final race for Androni Giocattoli and before he joined Lampre. After joining the latter ahead of the 2011 season, Scarponi says he trained under the supervision of the Mapei Centre. Its director, Dr Claudio Pecci, said last month it was no longer working with Lampre and that it had only seen Scarponi on a couple of occasions.

Scarponi’s confession came after Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport had published a transcript of an conversation carried out between Ferrari and Scarponi in the physician’s camper van in autumn 2010 which had been intercepted by law enforcement officials working on the Padua investigation. Scarponi says he had consulted Ferrari to have tests carried out and nothing more.

The Padua investigation is reaching its conclusion, and is likely to result in a number of individuals facing charges in connection with doping and/or crimes including including illegal transfers of funds.

Scarponi’s name is among those that have regularly been highlighted in the Italian press as being implicated - indeed, the Gazzetta dello Sport's publication of the transcript was part of the newspapers wider coverage of what it says was a €30 million doping ring centred around Ferrari which included the use of false rider contracts to enable money to be funnelled, via Monaco, to Swiss bank accounts in his name.

The cyclist himself was subject to a police raid in connection with the investigation while training on Mount Etna ahead of the 2011 Giro d’Italia, a race in which he would be awarded the overall win after Alberto Contador was stripped of that title earlier this year.

After the Gazzetta had published the transcript of the conversation between Ferrari and Scarponi, the rider's admission that he had trained with the doctor left CONI with little option but to act immediately on that specific element.

What is currently unknown, however, is whether further proceedings, whether under sports disciplinary procedures or even of a criminal nature, may follow once the results of the Padua investigation are published.

For now, the length of ban is in line with one handed down to Filippo Pozzato earlier this year, also for associating with Ferrari, who has been banned from working with cyclists in Italy since 2002 and, from this summer, is also subject to a worldwide ban following the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s investigation into the US Postal team. The maximum ban that could have been imposed on Scarponi is six months.

It’s hard to believe that a cyclist of Scarponi’s stature would have been unaware that associating with Ferrari carried with it the risk of a ban if discovered, yet the 33-year-old, who comes from the Marche region on the Adriatic coast and previously served an 18-month ban in connection with Operacion Puerto, insisted today: “Sincerely, I do not feel I have done anything wrong.”

Quoted on the Gazzetta dello Sport’s website, he went on: “Nevertheless, I accept the three-month sanction. It’s the judgment that was most expected, but I’d hoped that we could secure something less, or even nothing. I’ll take note of this sanction and return in the new year,” vowing to put the ban, which expires on 31 December, behind him once 2013 begins.

Meanwhile his lawyer, Alessandro Sivelli, said that while CONI’s sanction would be respected, there was a loophole in its anti-doping regulations that needed to be closed.

Referring to the ban instituted ten years ago by the Italian cycling federation, the FCI, that prevents Italian cyclists from associating with Ferrari, Sivelli commented: “You can’t leave it to the whim of having read the magazine Il Mondo del Ciclismo [published by the FCI] in 2002, when Scarponi was a first-year professional” [to be aware of the ban on the doctor].

“That there was gossip about Michele Ferrari is beyond doubt,” he added, “but from a legal perspective if the authorities say ‘You can’t frequent certain persons’ they must draw up a list [of those people] in such a way that you can go and read it.

“From 2007, such a record exists. And from 2007, the name of Ferrari isn’t there,” he added.
 

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.