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by Shane Stokes
November 14, 2016
Photography by Cor Vos
Following accusations that he had charged riders to receive a slot on his Androni Giocattoli team, Italian manager Gianni Savio has issued a strongly-worded response to the claims.
Last week Savio, Bruno Reverberi and Angelo Citracca were cleared by the Italian Cycling Federation’s disciplinary commission in the ‘Pay and Ride’ investigation. Reverberi and Citracca are the managers of the Bardiani-CSF and Wilier-Southeast squads respectively.
In a statement issued on Monday, Savio said that the accusations against him were fuelled by a desire for vengeance by former rider Matteo Mammini, and were baseless.
The inquiry began after Corriere della Sera journalist Marco Bonarrigo reported that some riders were secretly forced to give back portions of their salaries to their teams. Rider agents reportedly confirmed that this pay to race system was in existence, as did Mammini.
The Tuscan was fourth in the European under 23 championships and sixth in the world championships in 2012, but told Corriere della Sera that a team asked him to hand over 50,000 Euro in order to turn professional.
The subsequent investigation led to a request by the Italian Olympic Committee CONI that the three managers be banned for between one to three years, but the Italian Cycling Federation has rejected this.
It also dismissed the claims made by Elia Viviani (Sky) that his friend Marco Coledan had been asked to pay a penalty to leave the Bardiani team.
Savio issued his statement on Monday and said that Mammini had slandered him. He said that he had consequently submitted both civil and criminal proceedings against him to the Public Prosecutor of Turin.
“It is undeniable that Mammini lied just to harm me, and actually, besides the absolution [aside from being cleared – ed.], the damage of image and media that I have suffered is huge. In fact, it really saddened me that, in commenting on the judgment of the Federal Court, some media have titled, ‘Managers cleared, but the charges remain,’ sometimes adding my photo.”
While Savio accepted that some sponsors backing teams make the signing of certain riders a condition of the agreement, he said that this was not illegal.
“During the trial, I had already said it is necessary to make a distinction between two opposite positions,” he said. “The teams that request money from an athlete to make him run represent the first – regrettable – one. The second position concerns the teams who agree to the request of a company that makes the engagement of a particular runner a necessary condition for sponsoring.
“In this case, there is no violation, nor under the legal aspect nor – if the runner is of value – in terms of ethics.”
CONI has the right to appeal the Italian Cycling Federation decision. It remains to be seen if it will do so.
Savio’s full statement is below.
After the verdict of acquittal – for me, Citracca, Reverberi and Coledan [Italian rider Marco Coledan –ed.] – some media wrote, “the acquitted celebrate”. I have not celebrated because I was and am angry and bitter about being accused of a wrongdoing I never committed. You cannot celebrate when you have bitterness in your soul. Bitterness at being libeled by a former runner – Matthew Mammini – whose obvious intent was to take revenge with me for not being hired in the team I directed in 2013.
The hatred and resentment of Mammini against me emerge from the facts that I am going to expose. During the hearing of 26 May 2016, Mammini declares “thanks to the intervention of Mario Cipollini, I managed to get in touch with Mr. Gianni Savio” but Cipollini himself refutes and denies having ever contacted me. Mammini continues to lie saying that I would have asked for money to hire him, and even (as reported by journalist Marco Bonarrigo on May 13, 2016) I would have listed – writing “on a napkin” (sic!) – the names of the athletes who paid their salaries themselves and who made up almost the entire team. In practice, Mammini says, “Androni was able to pay only the captain Pellizotti and one or two riders.”
To prove the unreliability of what Mammini says, I recollect the staff of Androni-Venezuela 2013: the Venezuelans Carlos Ochoa, Jackson Rodriguez, Yonder Godoy and Tomas Gil; the Colombian Miguel Angel Rubiano (with us stage winner at Giro d’Italia 2012); Emanuele Sella (always a protagonist in Giro d’Italia in the previous seasons and with us winner of Settimana Coppi & Bartali, Coppa Agostoni and Gran Premio di Prato); Fabio Felline (with us victorious at the Giro dell’Appennino); Diego Rosa (prominent athlete, now at World Tour level); Mattia Gavazzi (highly rated at the time for his successes in the Tour de San Luis, Tour de Langkawi and Giro della Toscana). Now, is it credible that the runners that I have just listed – all valued and therefore required in the market – should pay to run?
I left for last the other runners of Androni-Venezuela 2013 – Omar Bertazzo, Jairo Ermeti, Patrick Facchini, Marco Frapporti, Alessandro Malaguti and Antonino Parrinello – all of whom were questioned by the Prosecutor General of CONI and none of whom said to have been asked for money to be hired.
To further frame the figure of Mammini, I highlight again that, always during the hearing on 26 May, being asked by the Prosecutor General of CONI: “Do you remember any names of those marked on the napkin by Savio?”, Mammini responds: ” At present I do not remember them”. Very bizarre! It is the riders of the team he wanted to be a part of, and he does not even remember any of the names?
From what I have said, it is undeniable that Mammini lied just to harm me, and actually, besides the absolution, the damage of image and media that I have suffered is huge. In fact, it really saddened me that, in commenting on the judgment of the Federal Court, some media have titled, “Managers cleared, but the charges remain,” sometimes adding my photo.
During the trial, I had already said it is necessary to make a distinction between two opposite positions. The teams that request money from an athlete to make him run represent the first – regrettable – one. The second position concerns the teams who agree to the request of a company that makes the engagement of a particular runner a necessary condition for sponsoring. In this case, there is no violation, nor under the legal aspect nor – if the runner is of value – in terms of ethics.
The second indictment against me concerns the engagement of Patrick Facchini – which was requested by the Consorzio Val di Chiese and by BM Group, two companies with whom I had signed a sponsorship contract. I accepted because I thought that Facchini was a good athlete, winner of ten races among amateurs, including international classics. I had not sought the rider since I had already completed the organic and I no longer had available economic resources. The athlete’s father got in touch with me and asked me to meet the executives of the two companies. Is there a violation of rules in completing such transaction?
The third indictment against me concerns the Agent Giuseppe Rivolta who says: “It happened in the past that Messrs. Gianni Savio, Bruno Reverberi and Angelo Citracca asked me to find a sponsor for their teams, but it was a pour parler and never an official request “. Which violation would be such “pour parler”?
From the statements in the interview records of the other runners belonging to my team at the time, it is clear that no one has ever “paid to ride”. In fact, according to what I have said – evidently given the inconsistency of evidence against me – the public Prosecutor of the Italian Cycling Federation had requested the dismissal of my case.
In this unfortunate affair in which I was involved by Matteo Mammini – who, following the complaints I have submitted to the Public Prosecutor of Turin, will have to answer for slander both in civil and in criminal proceedings – I have been supported by many messages of solidarity received from sponsors, colleagues, riders and fans, whom I thank very heartily.