MILAN (VN) — Michele Ferrari, despite lifetime bans in Italy and the United States, keeps fighting. Last night, he responded to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency doping case against himself and five others, and to the agency’s “Reasoned Decision” on Lance Armstrong by calling it a “conspiracy.”
The Italian wrote of his work with the Texan, “this collaboration consisted exclusively of advice on training, saddle height adjustments, aerodynamic positioning, locations for training programs and competitions: NOTHING to do with doping.”
The doctor from Ferrara, however, has a long track record when it comes to doping. He escaped criminal charges due to the statute of limitations in Italy, but was banned from working with cyclists. The USADA investigation found him guilty on a wide range of charges and issued him a worldwide lifetime ban in July.
The agency charged him with possession, trafficking and administration of prohibited drugs or methods. It said that he encouraged and helped cover doping related practices. In its “Reasoned Decision,” which the agency published one week ago, USADA detailed his involvement with Armstrong and other cyclists.
“USADA has found overwhelming proof that Dr. Michele Ferrari facilitated doping for numerous members of the U.S. Postal Service and Discovery Channel Cycling Teams,” read the agency’s decision.
It pointed to the testimony of George Hincapie, Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis, Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp), Tom Danielson (Garmin) and Levi Leipheimer (fired on Tuesday by Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and the evidence it gained from Italian investigations involving Filippo Simeoni, Volodymyr Bileka and Leonardo Bertagnolli. Taken together, it established Ferrari’s “involvement in doping” alongside Armstrong’s active run from 1998 to 2010.
USADA proved that Armstrong pushed riders like Vande Velde to use Ferrari. It showed that Armstrong tried to cover-up his relationship with Ferrari, proving he lied under oath in the SCA Promotion trial in 2005. It also obtained records of payments Armstrong made to Ferrari’s Swiss account, a total of $1,029,754.31 from 1996 to 2006.
“Simply,” wrote Ferrari, “those are delayed payments for consultancy.”
Ferrari consulted with cyclists and teams after assisting Francesco Conconi in the early 1990s. Professor Conconi received funding to develop a test for EPO, but in turn helped athletes cheat with the blood-boosting drug. Ferrari would become the team doctor at Team Gewiss, which swept the podium at the 1994 Flèche Wallonne. Afterwards, he famously was quoted saying, “EPO is not dangerous. Only excessive consumption of EPO is dangerous, as the excessive consumption of orange juice is dangerous.”
In Italy, Ferrari eventually faced criminal charges that he distributed doping products and he was convicted in 2002, thanks partly to Simeoni’s testimony. The ruling was overturned in 2006 on the basis of the statute of limitations; however, as USADA pointed out, the Italian Supreme Court stated, “[that] there were clear ‘objective’ evidences of Dr. Ferrari’s liability for sporting fraud and violation of anti-doping rules with specific reference of prescription of doping medications to athletes.”
The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) agreed, and in 2002 barred Ferrari from working with UCI-licensed cyclists within the country’s borders. If caught in collaboration, even via training plans, a cyclist could face a ban. Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia) served a three-month suspension when investigators this year uncovered that he worked with Ferrari from 2005 to 2010 and paid Ferrari nearly $65,000 a year. Bertagnolli and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) may face similar suspensions for working with Ferrari.
The 2008 Olympic race walk champion, Alex Schwazer, told a similar story to that of Ferrari and Armstrong. He admitted to EPO use after being booted out of the London Olympics, but said he only consulted the doctor for advice on training.
Ferrari is having a hard time hiding behind his “advice on training” excuse, however, given the past Italian investigations and ban, and USADA’s ruling and “Reasoned Decision” document. As Simeoni told VeloNews, “In Armstrong’s era, everyone knew, but no one was saying anything. Nothing. Now the proof is there, the unquestionable USADA document is there for all to see.”