Inquiry finds mafia faked blood dope test that cost Pantani 1999 Giro

Posted on: March 15th, 2016

An inquiry by a chief prosecutor says it has conclusive proof a mafia organisation forced a doctor to fabricate a blood test against Marco Pantani so he would be withdrawn from the 1999 Giro just as he was about to win it. It was done so the Camorra crime gang could rig betting on the outcome.

 

An inquiry in Italy has found a mafia-style organisation forced a doctor to fabricate a dope test in the 1999 Giro that cost Marco Pantani the race so betting on the event could be rigged.

The Italian, who died in February 2004, was disqualified from the race while leading it with just two stages remaining because his hematocrit reading was 51.9 per cent.

Anything above 50 per cent, a limit imposed by the UCI, was adjudged to indicate blood doping.

An investigation by the Forli Police in Italy and headed by Chief Prosecutor Sergio Sottani has now found that members of the Camorra visited a doctor involved in the testing process and forced him to fabricate the test result.

The Camorra is a mafia-style organisation from the region of Campania, based in its capital Naples. It is different from the Sicilian mafia and has a looser structure.

The inquiry says it has found a missing witness who held the key to proving mafia involvement.

When withdrawn from the race Pantani was leading Paolo Savoldelli of Saeco-Cannondale by 5:38.

The Giro was eventually won by Ivan Gotti (Polti), who finish 3rd on the last mountain stage some 4:05 ahead of Savoldelli.

A new inquiry, which has just published its report, was begun in October, 2014, as a follow up to an initial investigation in 1999 just after the race.

It has concluded threats were used to ensure the results of the June 5th test – carried out just before the penultimate stage was due to start – showed a high hematocrit reading ensuring Pantani would be stopped from racing any further.

“A Camorra clan member threatened a doctor,” says prosecutor Sottani in sections of the report that emerged in the Italian media last night.

“He forced him to alter the tests and put Pantani above the permitted level.”

On Monday La Repubblica newspaper published a recording alleged to be of a Camorra member speaking to a female relative.

He says the crime syndicate “made Pantani lose” the Giro “by changing the tests and making sure he tested positive”.

As well as that recording, and similar comments made by another Camorra member Renato Vallanzasca in 2000, the chief prosecutor who compiled the new report interviewed a large number of people, including Camorra members in prison, as part of his inquiry.

In 2000 Camorra member Renato Vallanzasca wrote a book and offered an account of the Pantani test.

“A Camorra clan member advised me whilst we were in prison, just before the penultimate stage of the tour, to put all my money I had on Pantani’s rivals,” gangster Vallanzasca wrote in 2000.

At the time Vallanzasca would not reveal the identity of the man who had supplied him with the betting information while they were in prison together during the 1999 race.

With no name against which to test his allegations, the case went cold.

However, it was reopened in 2014 by the Forli Police under Chief Prosecutor Sottani after the police believed they had found out who the prisoner was who spoke to Vallanzasca.

And the taped telephone conversation that has now emerged in the media in Italy is allegedly between that man and a female family member.

While Pantani was withdrawn from the Giro, he was permitted to race after two weeks rest.

At the time there was no test for EPO but a hematocrit reading above 50 per cent was indicative of blood doping.

Unable to prove doping, the UCI introduced a health-based rule under which it was unsafe to allow a rider continue racing with a reading above 50 per cent.

The two week rest period was designed to allow the level return to safety, below 50 per cent.

Pantani’s family has always contended he never fully recovered mentally from being withdrawn from the race in 1999.

They believe his exclusion led to a mental spiral and his apparent drug-related death, though they suspect third party involvement in his passing.

 

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