1998 Tour de France winner Marco Pantani was beaten, forced to drink cocaine and murdered, according to his family's lawyer. The public prosecutor of Rimini, after receiving the family's request and supporting documents, re-opened the case according to news reports today in Italy.
Pantani was found dead on February 14, 2004, in Rimini's Le Rose hotel on Italy's eastern shores. A previous case closed and showed that Pantani died of a cocaine overdose.
Family lawyer Antonio De Rensis, however, re-examined the case, collected information and presented it to the prosecutor. According to a report in today's La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper, he said that Pantani let known men into his room early in the morning.
The men hit the 34-year-old cyclist and forced him to drink cocaine diluted in water. They carried his body down the stairs of the bi-level room, left him for dead and purposely made the room to look disorganised.
The documents given to the prosecutor point out that investigators never analysed the water bottle found and never took fingerprints from the room. After reviewing the family's request, Elisa Milocco re-opened the case.
The 2005 case found three men guilty for supply the cocaine that killed Pantani. Fabio Carlino arranged the final 30 grams of cocaine that killed Pantani, Fabio Miradossa took the order in Naples and gave the cocaine to Ciro Veneruso. Veneruso delivered it from Naples to Pantani's room at Le Rose.
In 2005, Miradossa bargained for a four-year, 10-month prison sentence and Veneruso for three years, 10 months. The courts sentenced Carlino in 2008 to four years, six months in prison, and ordered him to pay €19,000 in fines and €300,000 in compensation to Pantani's family. In 2011, Italy's highest court of dropped charges against Carlino.
Pantani finished third in the Tour de France twice, behind winners Miguel Indurain and Jan Ullrich. In 1998, he won both the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France. His last win was the 15th stage of the 2000 Tour to Courchevel. He remains an iconic figure in his home county and with cycling fans across the world.
Despite the new murder theory, drug-use Pantani's final years. He registered a 60.1 hematocrit level after being hospitalised following the 1995 Milan-Turin and in 1999, he was forced out of the Giro while leading for registering a hematocrit level over 50 per cent (52-53%).
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