Cunego insists he has nothing to hide in relation to Italian anti-doping investigation
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Friday, April 09, 2010

Cunego insists he has nothing to hide in relation to Italian anti-doping investigation

by Conal Andrews at 6:26 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 

Responding to reports mentioning him in connection with the ongoing anti-doping investigations in the town of Mariana Mantovana, Damiano Cunego has officially denied any involvement and said that he has not received any notification from prosecutors that he is one of those being studied. He also denies ever having met the coach Guido Nigrelli, around whom the investigation is centered.

“I called home, I have not received nothing. Things are very quiet,” he told l’Arena, when asked about the investigation that reportedly involves 35 individuals. “Personally, I have never seen Nigrelli. I know him only by hearsay. The team is regularly in his pharmacy to buy standard medications.”

Nigrelli is being investigated on suspicion of having given banned substances to riders. He has been linked to the Lampre trainer Sergio Gelati. Cunego says that he knows the latter, having worked together at one point, but that is all.

“Gelati followed me for a brief stint as coach, giving me a program and testing me at my home in Cerro. Then I decided to do it alone. I know how to train and programmes, more or less, are always the same.

“I’m astonished at all this fuss. I have nothing to hide – for sure – and although many say the opposite, nothing has come to my house. I do not know what else to add. I’m here at the [Tour of the] Basque Country with the goal of improving the overall ranking. Now I am in eighth. We are all a few seconds apart and tomorrow [Friday] is important for me. Then there will be the final time trial. To win a stage would be ideal, but it is important to also defend myself well.”

Cunego won the Giro d’Italia in 2004, while just 22 years of age, but has not approached that same level of consistency since in Grand Tours. He has made several anti-doping statements in recent years and has said that he will never again be the rider that he was six years ago. Rightly or wrongly, some have interpreted this as an subtle admission that he once used products but has since decided to ride clean. Another possible interpretation is that he has not had the same recovery since being struck with the Epstein Barr virus in 2005.

The 28 year old remains a successful rider, albeit an inconsistent one. He won two mountain stages in last year’s Vuelta a España, has taken three editions of the Giro di Lombardia, the best young rider award in the 2006 Tour de France, and has won other important events such as the Amstel Gold Race.

His view is that the current story will blow over. “Sportingly speaking, at Lampre we are going well. As for the rest, this negative publicity is not good and the sponsors are certainly not happy. But even that will pass,” he said.

“Surely in cycling, ultimately, we must distinguish what is good [from what is bad] and not just lump everything together. Like when we did the controls in San Vincenzo; that was much ado about nothing. I see similarities with what is happening now.”

The San Vincenco reference is in relation to surprise anti-doping tests that took place during the team training camp in January 2008. Four anti-doping officials arrived late at night and began testing the riders at 11pm, the visit lasting until 3.30 am. This was criticized on the grounds that several riders were already in bed and WADA’s anti-doping regulations state that tests should be carried out before 10pm.

Cuengo’s attorney Alex Carera insists that the rider is at peace and has nothing to hide. “This is more than a storm, but we are talking about a big misunderstanding,” he said. “Damiano is very serene, he could not be more serene. He is one hundred percent certain, as am I, that they can do all the investigations they want because they have no chance of finding something illegal.

“Damiano does not have to justify anything because he has not used any substance and he has never visited Nigrelli. He does not even know what he looks like. He never went to that town in the provence of Mantua.

“In Italy, we know that if a person makes a complaint to the police about any type of crime, the police have the right and the obligation to initiate an investigation, but that does not mean anything. We do now know, I repeat, if Cunego is suspected because he has received nothing from the prosecutors. Otherwise, nothing would change because Damiano is so transparent in all his things that he has nothing to fear.”

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