Team Sky has reason to worry ahead of the Giro d’Italia next month. Police pulled one of its race leaders, Italian Morris Possoni, into an investigation of controversial Italian doctor and coach Michele Ferrari when they searched his home yesterday.
Italy’s Anti-Narcotics Group (NAS) of Brescia led the search of Possoni’s and Diego Caccia’s home in Bergamo. A separate NAS branch searched the home of Caccia’s team-mate and Italian Champion Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini) in Pistoia. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, the NAS took planners, contracts and medical reports from the homes. They did not report if they found doping products.
Last week, the NAS also visited Lampre riders Michele Scarponi and Leonardo Bertagnolli, and Katusha riders Alexandr Kolobnev, Mikhail Ignatiev, Vladimir Gusev and Vladimir Karpets; and Astana’s Evgeni Petrov (previously with Katusha).
Italian prosecutor Benedetto Roberti in Padova ordered the raids as part of his investigation of Michele Ferrari, Armstrong’s former trainer. The courts cleared Michele Ferrari in 2006 of criminal charges accusing him of distributing doping products, but the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) banned him from working with UCI-licensed cyclists in Italy.
Roberti’s investigation of Ferrari was jump-started after meetings with US prosecutor Jeff Novitzky in Lyon, France, in November last year. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Roberti has since tracked Ferrari’s bank records in Switzerland, which show transfers, some from the USA.
Armstrong last week was rumoured to have met with Ferrari ahead of last year’s Tour de France, even though he announced he ended his ties with him in 2004. Novitzky is currently investigating allegations made by Armstrong’s former team-mate Floyd Landis. Landis alleged in April last year that Armstrong doped during his Tour de France victories.
In Italy, cyclists may risk a ban of up to six months for being linked with Ferrari, be it training plans or telephone calls. If the NAS finds evidence of doping, it would be much worse. It is also working to pull in Ferrari, who reportedly earned around 15-million euro.
The Giro d’Italia sent out its official list of 207 riders yesterday, Possoni was listed alongside Sky’s other eight riders and Scarponi at the top of Lampre’s team list. Their participation may be in doubt, given a possible link to Ferrari.