By Gregor Brown
Marco Pantani's cocaine supplier, Fabio Carlino escaped a prison sentence and fines of over £270,000. Italy's highest court of appeal, the Court of Cassation acquitted Carlino on Wednesday in connection with the Tour de France winner's deadly overdose in 2004.
The head prosecutor, Oscar Cedrangolo explained in a summery, "acquitted because the facts don't constitute a criminal offence."
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.
According to a report in Friday's La Gazzetta dello Sport, Cedrangolo expressed doubts about the initial ruling. He had "the impression that the exaggerated media publicity surrounding Mr Pantani's death led the judges to an excessive attribution of responsibility." He asked for the homicide charges to be dropped, but for the drug dealing charges to be upheld. The court, however, overturned both charges.
Carlino helped provide the logistics for the final 30 grams of cocaine that killed the Italian climber on February 14, 2004. Fabio Miradossa took the order in Naples and handed it over to Ciro Veneruso. Veneruso delivered it from Naples to Pantani's hotel room at Le Rose in Rimini.
In 2005, Miradossa bargained for a four-year, 10-month prison sentence, and Veneruso for three years, 10 months.
Cedrangolo said on Wednesday that there was a lack of evidence, that Carlino had not given Pantani's address to Miradossa and Veneruso, and had not know about Pantani's previous overdose in December 2003.
Carlino said, according to the Italian sports newspaper, "It's the end of a nightmare."
"It's a disgrace," said Pantani's mother, Tonina, "justice doesn't exist in Italy."
"The accusations had no ground," explained Carlino's lawyer, Alessandro Gamberini. "It was a big show, however, the Court of Cassation gave it a lot of attention."
Pantani finished third at the Tour de France two times, 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 leg of the 2000 Tour, the summit finish to Courchevel.
Doping accusations clouded Pantani's sporting career. He registered a 60.1 per cent hematocrit level after being hospitalised following the 1995 Milan-Turin and in 1999, was forced to leave the Giro while leading for registering a hematocrit level over 50 per cent (52-53 per cent).
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