Mapei boss claims Verbruggen threatened to disqualify his team after he complained about doping
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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mapei boss claims Verbruggen threatened to disqualify his team after he complained about doping

by Ben Atkins at 3:18 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Giorgio Squinzi threatened in 1999 after speaking out

giorgio squinziGiorgio Squinzi, the boss of former team sponsor Mapei, was threatened with the permanent disqualification of his team by then International Cycling Union (UCI) president Hein Verbruggen, the Italian has told the Italian media. Mapei was one of the super-teams of the 1990s, boasting riders such as Tony Rominger, Johan Museeuw, Franco Ballerini, Andrea Tafi and Paolo Bettini, and was dominant in many of the Classics; particularly the cobbled ones.

The only Grand Tours that the Mapei team managed to win, however, were the Vuelta a España and Giro d’Italia, by Rominger in 1994 and 1995 respectively. It was a later complaint from Squinzi that claimed that riders couldn’t compete in three-week races without doping that brought on the alleged threat from Verbruggen, whom Squinzi claims he knew was already protecting Lance Armstrong.

“Sure it happened,” Squinzi said, according to tuttobici.it. “I told him as early as 1999, when I said that you couldn’t get into the top five places of a Grand Tour without doping.

“When I said those things, Verbruggen threatened to have my Mapei cycling team permanently disqualified.”

While the Mapei team was not free from doping issues, Squinzi himself was always outspoken about the issue, and cited the sport’s drug problem as the reason for his withdrawal from backing the team in 2002. He had made changes in the team, removing riders like Rominger who were training with the notorious Michele Ferrari, but cycling’s continued scandals finally made him walk away.

While riding for the Mapei team at the 2002 Giro d’Italia, Stefano Garzelli was excluded after trace amounts of Probenicid - a banned diuretic, which can be used as a masking agent - were found in his urine. Many feel that this was one of the key events that caused Squinzi to withdraw his sponsorship.

"The exclusion of Garzelli, who tested positive for a masking agent, wasn't a normal thing,” Squinzi told Het Laatste Nieuws at the time. “At the start nothing was found. Later, as soon as he won a stage, a forbidden substance came out all of the sudden. That's bizarre."

Since that time, Squinzi - who now owns Italian Serie A football team Sassuolo - has created the Mapei Sport Centre, under the directorship of the late anti-doping trainer Aldo Sassi, and Mapei has been a key sponsor of the UCI World road championships in recent years. So far though, despite its boss Squinzi being a keen amateur rider, the Italian chemical company has resisted the temptation to sponsor a team again.

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