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Responding to a story published Monday in La Gazzetta dello Sport, convicted doping doctor Michele Ferrari has angrily denied a report saying that he attended an Astana team training camp in November 2013.
Issuing his response to the story on his website, the Italian – who was handed a lifetime ban by USADA in 2012 due to his doping of Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service/Discovery Channel teams – has denied ever being in Montecatini Terme, the location of the team hotel at the time.
“I feel obliged, albeit very reluctantly, to once again deny the latest MEDIA BULLSH*T with regards to my presence (“during the night”, or even in broad daylight, if you prefer) at the Astana Team Training Camp in Montecatini (I’ve been in that town, if I remember correctly, in 1994 to taste the famous waffles) last year in November,” he said on his website.
“The bombshell of ‘the dark shadow of Ferrari’ is absolutely FALSE and whoever has published it will respond about it in the appropriate courts: I hope that the Kazakh team will ask adequate compensation for the damages.”
According to the Gazzetta story, Ferrari attended the team hotel thirteen months ago. Unbeknownst to the team, so too did anti-doping investigators, who reportedly have photographs of the doctor talking to various members of the team.
It is not yet clear if La Gazzetta plans to publish the photographs, or if it simply saw them prior to printing its story. There is a possibility that the photos will be used in the ongoing Padova investigation in Italy and/or passed on to the UCI Licence Commission currently deciding whether or not the team should be allowed retain its WorldTour licence in 2015.
That review was called after five riders from the WorldTour and Continental teams tested positive in recent months.
WorldTour team riders Valentin and Maxim Iglinskiy both tested positive for EPO in August, while three riders with the Continental squad – namely Kazakhstan’s national champion Ilya Davidenok, Artur Fedosseyev and Victor Okishev all tested positive for anabolic androgenic steroids.
Davidenok has been a stagiaire with the WorldTour team since August.
The Licence Commission will pass on its recommendation to the UCI, which is due to announce its final decision this week.
If shown to be true, the reports that Ferrari met with the team last November would be a big blow to Astana’s chances of keeping its licence.
Right now, Ferrari is strongly denying the claims.
“The article in Gazzetta dello Sport, among other extraordinarily confusing statements, claims that I am living between Lugano and Ferrara: I always resided in Ferrara, for 26 years at the same address, and I never even stopped in Lugano, nor have a study or home in that location,” he wrote.
“Up to a few years ago I coached some of the Astana athletes, including Vinokurov: it has never been a secret, we never hid anything, we attended training venues where there were many other athletes, all in broad daylight. Curiously Teide or St. Moritz, back then “suspicious” locations as defined by the very UCI, have now been “cleared” and are more popular than ever with cyclists and teams above any suspicion…”
The final line refers to training by Team Sky and others at that location.
Mount Teide and the Canary Islands have been identified as out of competition testing blackspots, with very few tests being done. That plus the masking effects of altitude are both factors which could have helped Ferrari’s riders and others to evade detection.
Under CONI’s rules, anyone working with Ferrari since 2002 is liable to a suspension. In addition to that, La Gazzetta states that licence holders are obliged to inform sporting authorities if they even see Ferrari.
USADA issued a lifetime ban against the doctor in 2012 over his work with Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service team.
Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali has denied ever meeting Ferrari. La Gazzetta confirmed Monday that Nibali was in attendance at the Astana training camp in question. If it is ultimately proven that Ferrari was there and met the Italian, the latter’s credibility would be damaged.
The Astana team is yet to respond to the allegations. Requests for comment today by CyclingTips went unanswered.
Right now, Ferrari has laid out his position clearly. The logical next step is for one or more of the photos to be printed. If this happens and substantiates the claims, it would demolish his denial.