Marco Pantani was not murdered, says biographer

Marco Pantani's biographer Matt Rendell dismisses the idea that the former pro cyclist was murdered

Marco Pantani in the 1999 Giro d'Italia
(Image credit: Graham Watson)

Marco Pantani was not murdered and the re-opened cases involving the late Italian cyclist are comical, according to biographer Matt Rendell.

"People are going to be left with farcical version of the death of JFK or a bald, big-eared Marilyn Monroe story because they won't bother to look at the facts, they'll assume that there's some truth to what's being talked about," the English journalist told Cycling Weekly. "There won't be another end because Pantani was clearly not murdered."

Pantani died of a cocaine overdose on February 14, 2004. He won the 1998 Giro d'Italia and Tour de France, was kicked out of the 1999 Giro for failing an anti-doping test, and returned to win two stages in the 1999 Tour – his last two victories. Afterwards, he faded away from cycling and began consuming greater amounts of cocaine.

Rendell wrote the The Death of Marco Pantani biography in 2007, which is taking on a new life with the recent inquiries opened in northern Italy's Emilia Romagna region. One in Rimini, where Pantani died in the Le Rose hotel, is examining a theory that Pantani was murdered and the other down the road in Forlì, is looking a possible mafia link to Pantani's 1999 Giro anti-doping test.

"La Gazzetta dello Sport [Italy's leading sports newspaper] ran comic strips to show the Rimini story. That's really what it is, a comic story," Rendell said.

"These are murderers with no names, no suspects, there's no persuasive motive being mentioned."

Antonio De Rensis, lawyer for Pantani's parents, pushed Rimini's public prosecutor to re-open the case in July. He said that Pantani let known men into his room on February 14. The men hit the 34-year-old and forced him to drink water diluted with lethal amounts of cocaine. He said that police investigated the Le Rose hotel room poorly and never examined the water bottle in the room.

Marco Pantani in the 2003 Giro d'Italia

Marco Pantani in the 2003 Giro d'Italia, his final Grand Tour
(Image credit: Graham Watson)

"If you believe what is written, these are criminals that can drift through walls and windows because the windows were locked and the door was barricaded from the inside. Pantani would shut himself in the room, turn up the heating and sate himself with cocaine.

"The bottle of water? When De Rensis and Francesco Avato [medical expert for Pantini's family] looked at in the investigators' crime scene film, they saw this bottle of water and said, 'Where's the bottle in the evidence?' Pantani was not beaten over the head with the bottle. It was not a blunt instrument used for killing. The evidence from the medical staff, it was consistent, and showed no sign of a struggle and this was a case of cocaine overdose. There was cocaine on every surface."

Rendell underlines that 'Il Pirata' overdosed on cocaine four times in 2003: in Cesenatico, Saturnia and Miramare, Italy, and in Havana, Cuba. In Italy, however, many consider Pantani a wronged hero.

"When we are in love with someone, when you are passionate about someone like a sports star or a person close to you, it clouds your judgement," Rendell said.

"In Italy, there's a mistrust of the institutions. The sad thing in this case is that the Rimini and the Forlì investigations were exemplary pieces of police work, but they are now being made to look corrupt and rubbish."

More on Marco Pantani

Ivan Gotti would accept Marco Pantani being given 1999 Giro d'Italia victory

New investigation may see Marco Pantani reinstated as 1999 Giro d'Italia leader

New investigation into whether the Mafia were involved in Marco Pantani's exclusion from the 1999 Giro d'Italia

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.