The Marco Pantani investigation in Italy's east coast seaside town of Rimini has hit several obstacles as Christmas nears. Policemen involved in the original 2004 case, when the 1998 Giro d'Italia and Tour de France champion died, announced they will sue those who discredit their work. A court expert's investigation has also turned up nothing to support the theory that Pantani was murdered.
Lawyer for Pantani's parents, Antonio De Rensis pushed for an inquiry to be opened in July based on his work that says Pantani was murdered rather than dying of a self-administered cocaine overdose on February 14, as originally ruled.
De Rensis said that Pantani let men into his Le Rose hotel room on February 14. The men hit him and forced him to drink water diluted with lethal amounts of cocaine. He added that the police investigated Room D5 poorly and did not examine a water bottle left behind.
De Rensis's murder theory, however, has hit a roadblock. Professor Franco Tagliaro, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport's website, sent Rimini Chief Prosecutor Paolo Gengarelli his early findings in an email: no aggression. The superficial wounds do not correspond to struggle or fight, but perhaps the trip and fall of a small, five-foot-six former cyclist high on cocaine.
Tagliaro's work corresponds with the results from the original 2004 examination by Professor Giuseppe Fortuni. Pantani, who overdosed on cocaine four times before in 2003, killed himself by taking too much of the drug.
Tagliaro has 40 more days to complete his work, which will take the new inquiry beyond Christmas and into 2015.
Rumours that the case would require the exhumation of Pantani's body appear to be just rumours and nothing more. Body tissue parts mounted on slides or in paraffin blocks no longer exist because 10 years have passed without a request to conserve the samples, but Tagliaro is able to perform his work using copies of related material.
De Rensis presented a video recorded during the crime scene investigation on Tuesday. He reportedly argued that the police on the scene were clumsy and missed key details, like the water bottle.
The theories and different stories making their way around Italy in the winter months, however, are too much for some. Five investigating police officers who worked on the scene in 2004 asked their lawyers to sue those discrediting their work.
"It does not seem possible to remain silent and especially to continue to tolerate a media lynching," their lawyers, Moreno Maresi and Mattia Lanciani told the Quotidiano Net website.
"It has assumed unacceptable proportions that seem fuelled by a reconstruction of the facts, often misrepresented."
While the possible murder theory case appears to be unravelling, a separate inquiry opened in nearby Forlì is examining if the Mafia played a role in Pantani's failed anti-doping test and expulsion from the 1999 Giro d'Italia while in the race leader's pink jersey.
More on Marco Pantani
Three doctors and a UCI official that dealt with Marco Pantani's blood samples during 1999 Giro d'Italia will give evidence
New investigation into whether the Mafia were involved in Marco Pantani's exclusion from the 1999 Giro d'Italia
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