La Gazzetta claims Pantani’s body could be exhumed after tissue samples were disposed of

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Using language that will fuel conspiracy theories about the death of Marco Pantani, La Gazzetta dello Sport has claimed that there is a possibility that the late rider’s body could be exhumed as part of the re-examination about his passing.

The Italian newspaper has reported that the current enquiry into claims that he was murdered by persons unknown who forced him to consume toxic levels of cocaine has been frustrated by the destruction of tissue samples taken during his autopsy and preserved afterwards.

Describing the destruction of those samples as ‘a new twist,’ the paper then goes on to state that Italian law allows for the disposal of samples. It quotes a statement given by the ANSA news agency by the Rimini’s prosecutor’s office.

“The destruction of the anatomical findings is permitted under the Code of Criminal Procedure when the process is finished. In this case that has come ten years after the judgment in the Supreme Court,” it reads.

La Gazzetta acknowledges that the disposal has followed a standard path and not violated any rules. However, despite that, it still hints at foul play. “Yet some things do not add up and the time at least feeds the doubts,” it claims.

The Rimini prosecutor had previously requested that samples and other information be made available to Professor Tagliaro, who has been asked by the chief prosecutor Paolo Giovagnoli to give an expert opinion which La Gazzetta says could be decisive for the fortunes of the investigation.

He has been given some material, including toxicology test results, but won’t have access to the disposed samples.

La Gazzetta said that the Supreme Court closed the Pantani case in November 2011 when the defendant Fabio Carlino was acquitted. He had been accused then of supplying Pantani with the cocaine which killed him.

La Gazzetta said that the samples were finally destroyed last spring, but notes that the Pantani family lawyer Antonio De Rensis had contacted the prosecutor in September 2013 looking for folders relating to the investigation plus the subsequent trial.

It claims that it should have been clear that the case could be reopened, and points to the timing of the disposal as suspicious.

It also makes the same claim about the demagnetisation [ie erasing] of a video while in the prosecutor’s office. This had been shot by the police the day of Pantani’s death, and was due to be delivered to Tagliaro. La Gazzetta states that De Rensis had several copies and so the loss of data wasn’t serious.

The newspaper suggests that there is a possibility that Pantani’s body could be exhumed in order to replace the lost tissue samples, which apparently included the rider’s heart.

“This may be used to cover the holes left by the destruction of the exhibits,” it notes, then adds an extra comment which appears to show its support for the claims of foul play. “We hope that in the meantime the body doesn’t disappear…”

In addition to claims that Pantani may have been murdered – despite the room in which his body was found reportedly being sealed from the inside – there have also been allegations of foul play in relation to his expulsion from the 1999 Giro d’Italia, some two stages from the end of the race.

Pantani looked certain to win but was determined to have a haematocrit level greater than the permitted 50 percent threshold.

Claims have been made that the mafia could have been involved and to have forced or enticed the doping control experts to stitch Pantani up.

This allegation plus the claims the rider was murdered were recently questioned by Pantani biographer Matt Rendell, who painstakingly researched both the Giro affair and his murder as part of his book The Death of Marco Pantani.

The CyclingTips interview with Rendell can be read in full here.

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