Italian judge closes the investigation into whether Marco Pantani's 1999 Giro expulsion was due to mafia involvement
Yesterday in Forlì, the investigating judge archived the case opened by the cyclists’ parents two years ago and left only one conclusion: that the Italian climber used EPO.
Monica Galassi also rejected the family’s request to have the case moved from Forlì, in Italy’s northern Emilia-Romagna region, to Naples.
The investigators concluded at the end of the inquiry that the evidence obtained was not capable of identifying perpetrators of any offences alleged – conspiracy, sports-fixing, threats and extortion.
It is the second blow for Paolo and Tonina Pantani, who also pushed for an inquiry into the possibility that their son was murdered. In June, a judge in Rimini closed a case looking into that murder theory. The prosecutor said, “Neither the news of crime nor the existence of investigations brought about at least one name of a possible suspect different from the ones already prosecuted.”
The original investigation showed that Pantani died of a cocaine overdose on February 14, 2004. He had problems with the drug and overdosed four times in 2003.
In September 2014, shortly after the Rimini murder inquiry began, Public Prosecutor Sergio Sottani opened a case in Forlì to investigate claims that the Mafia fixed Pantani’s 1999 Giro expulsion.
Pantani won the Madonna di Campiglio stage on June 4 and looked ready to win the overall two days later in Milan. He held a healthy 5-38-minute lead over Paolo Savoldelli and had 6-12 minutes on Ivan Gotti. However, UCI testers controlled his haematocrit the next morning in the ski village and it read 51.9 per cent – above the 50 per cent limit and indicating EPO use.
Officials kicked Pantani out of the Giro and Gotti won in Milan by 3-35 over Savoldelli. Gotti, when the investigation began in 2014, said that he would be ready to concede his victory to “poor Marco,” but he did not have to.
Sottani called in several persons. Career criminal Renato Vallanzasca said that he was warned against betting on Pantani at the time and a fellow prisoner, called Mister X in the Italian media, allegedly told Vallanzasca, “Anyway, that bald-headed rider won’t make it to Milan.”
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The evidence was not enough for investigators and Galassi closed the case.
‘Il Pirata’ Marco Pantani won the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in 1999, the last to win the famous double. He only had to take a two-week break according to the rules at the time, but he never appeared the same after the 1999 Giro.
He returned to win two stages in the 2000 Tour de France. Those were his last two victories. He raced less and faced more problems off the bike with car crashes and drug overdoses.