Mantova investigation leads to formal charges against Cunego, Ballan, Saronni and others
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Friday, July 19, 2013

Mantova investigation leads to formal charges against Cunego, Ballan, Saronni and others

by Shane Stokes at 9:37 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Trial to begin on December 10th, Lampre team at core of anti-doping case

Damiano CunegoFormer Giro d’Italia winner Damiano Cunego (Lampre Merida) and past world road race champion Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing Team) are amongst many who have been indicted in connection with the ongoing Mantova doping investigation, with a total of 27 individuals being examined.

The judge overseeing the preliminary hearing has agreed with the prosecutor Antonino Condorelli and said the case against riders, team staff and managers should proceed. According to La Gazetta dello Sport, the process will begin on December 10th of this year.

In addition to Cunego and Ballan, former world champion and Giro d’Italia winner Giuseppe Saronni has been indicted; he is the general manager of the Lampre Merida team.

In April 2011 a total of seventeen riders who had competed with the Lampre team were named by Italian media. In addition to Ballan and Cunego, Mauro Santambrogio, Marco Bandiera, Emanuele Bindi, Marzio Bruseghin, Damiano Cunego, Mauro Da Dalto, Francesco Gavazzi, Mirko Lorenzetto, Manuele Mori, Simone Ponzi, Francesco Tomei and Daniele Pietropolli were also listed.

Since then, Bindi accepted guilt under a plea bargain and was given a one year suspended sentence. Tomei was cleared.

Cunego, Gavazzi and Mori are competing in the current Tour de France. Race organiser ASO has not yet indicated if they will be asked to stop.

Also amongst those implicated in 2011 were Lampre’s general manager Giuseppe Saronni plus directeurs sportifs Fabrizio Bontempi and Maurizio Piovani. The soigneur Fabio Della Torre plus former team doctor Josè Ibarguren were similarly said to be involved.

At the time, a number of other current/past riders named who are not connected to the squad were also implicated. These include Michael Rasmussen, who has since admitted long-term doping and retired.

The case centres around the pharmacist Guido Nigrelli, who is thought to have supplied the banned products to the riders. It is believed that substances such as EPO, growth hormone, anabolic steroids and testosterone are involved.

The riders are being charged under Article 9 of the anti-doping regulations, governing the use of performance-enhancing drugs and also article 648 of the Penal Code, which covers buying or receiving illegal doping products.

Lampre has issued a statement in response, saying that it ‘bitterly’ notes the decision. It disputes the case going to trial, asserting that no new elements have emerged during the preliminary hearings and thus it considers the case against those concerned to be uncertain. It also states that nothing has been done in relation to the reported phone taps, calling their significance into question, and it also states that those indicted should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

It said that it reaffirms its trust in the riders and team staff that are involved in the issue, and that it believes that they will be able to clear their names during the hearing.

It concluded by threatening to take legal action against any damage to the team’s image.

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