Vincenzo Nibali, team Astana and Michele Ferrari denied claims that they worked together. However, the banned doctor was photographed at the team’s November 2013 camp, according to an article in La Gazzetta dello Sport last week.
“Never,” the 2014 Tour de France winner responded France’s Stade 2 TV when asked if he worked with Ferrari. “Like we all know, you can be banned for simply seeing him.”
Stade 2 featured the Kazakh team and Ferrari in its Sunday sports show. Last Monday, La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper reported that investigators linked to the recently closed Padua inquiry photographed Ferrari at the team’s hotel. Ferrari, according to the report, visited the team at its camp in Montecatini Terme in November 2013.
Simply associating with Ferrari can result in a ban in Italy, where since 2002 the Olympic committee barred him from working with licensed athletes. In 2012, the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) case against Lance Armstrong brought Ferrari a lifetime global ban. Ferrari, according to the case file, helped Armstrong and his team-mates dope with EPO, testosterone and blood transfusions.
Stade 2 showed footage of Ferrari meeting other cyclists and training in a US Postal jersey. It telephoned him in its feature to ask about Astana and Nibali.
“Me in Montecatini for Astana’s camp? It’s an absurd accusation. The last time I was in Montecatini was 25 years ago and I had a clear reason: to buy Montecatini biscuits.
“Never,” he said when asked about ever training Nibali. “This is also an absurd claim.
“Who do I train now? No one. I don’t train any riders anymore.”
Astana’s General Manager Alexandre Vinokourov worked with Ferrari as a cyclist and according to the reports last week, kept his relationship going. He asked Ferrari to follow 10 to 12 of his riders for the 2011 season, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport‘s information from the Padua inquiry.
“The goal is to destroy Astana,” Vinokourov told Kazakh media of the Italian reports, noting La Gazzetta. “They want to make us pay for racing Nibali in the Tour Almaty instead of Lombardia, or because we are putting our efforts into the Tour de France.”
Vinokourov explained that he might sue. Nibali, his trainer Paolo Slongo and team-mate Paolo Tiralongo sued two journalists who wrote an article in Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper on Monday.
Cycling’s governing body, the UCI is monitoring situation. It asked the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) for the case files it received from Padua to review the claims made. President Brian Cookson said that the team’s 2015 licence, only after being granted on Wednesday, could be yanked if the reports are true.
“They are very much under probation and scrutiny,” Cookson told Cycling Weekly, “and they won’t be given another chance.”