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AP Interview: Italian cycling federation chief asks authorities to end Dr. Ferrari's influence

12/18/2014 08:43 EST | Updated 02/17/2015 05:59 EST
ROME - Law enforcement authorities need to prevent banned physician Michele Ferrari from seeing riders and conclude his long-running stain on the sport, according to the president of the Italian Cycling Federation.

"It needs to be law enforcement and judicial officials that put an end to it," Renato Di Rocco told The Associated Press. "Unfortunately, teams don't have these means."

Earlier this month, investigators led by Padua prosecutor Benedetto Roberti sent a 550-page file detailing allegations of Ferrari's continued influence on cyclists to the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI).

Of the more than 35 pro cyclists involved in the inquiry, "most of them" are still competing, police told the AP.

CONI's anti-doping prosecutor is currently going through the dossier and will likely start calling in athletes to answer for the case starting in January, the committee said.

The same four-year-old investigation played a role in the massive 2012 report by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that detailed doping by Lance Armstrong and led to him being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.

Armstrong has acknowledged that Ferrari was his trainer until 2004, and Ferrari's name was mentioned throughout the USADA report.

Doping is a crime in Italy, and Ferrari was already cleared on appeal in 2006 of criminal charges of distributing banned products to athletes. But he remains barred for life by the Italian Cycling Federation under a 2002 ruling. Ferrari was also banned for life by USADA in 2012.

"I'm telling you as a citizen of Italy: these long cases don't help anyone," Di Rocco said this week. "We always ask magistrates to help us and remove bad apples from cycling. But in the end we lose too much time. A lot of the people involved have already served bans."

Calls to Roberti's office went unanswered but nobody has been called to trial yet in the case. A similar judicial inquiry involving alleged doping within the Lampre team has also dragged on for years without any conclusions.

"When there are only doubts and shadows I think cycling is tired of that," Di Rocco said.

The Gazzetta dello Sport reported this month that investigators photographed Ferrari meeting with members of the Astana team outside the team's training camp hotel one night in November 2013.

Astana is the team of Tour champion Vincenzo Nibali, but his name does not appear in the Padua dossier that CONI received, the Olympic committee said.

Ferrari wrote on his website earlier this month that he never went to the team hotel.

"Up to a few years ago I coached some of the Astana athletes, including (the team's current general manager Alexandre) Vinokourov," Ferrari said. "It has never been a secret. We never hid anything. We attended training venues where there were many other athletes, all in broad daylight."

The International Cycling Union decided last week that Astana will keep its World Tour license — although on probation — despite five senior and development squad riders being caught doping with EPO and steroids since August.

"There was certainly some tension within the squad," Nibali said while at CONI on Monday for an awards ceremony. "I've always remained calm. We were waiting for the license and in the end it came and it's all been resolved well."

Meanwhile, Nibali is drawing out his schedule for 2015, and the big question is whether he'll ride in the Giro d'Italia.

"For sure I'll do the Tour. Whereas for the Giro I'm still waiting," he said.

Di Rocco suggested that Nibali should "definitely" focus only on the Tour, partly because the Giro features an unusually long 59-kilometre (37-mile) time trial.

"That's so long it doesn't suit anybody, not even (Chris) Froome or (Alberto) Contador," Di Rocco said.

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Andrew Dampf can be followed at www.twitter.com/asdampf

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