MILAN (AFP) — An investigation into infamous sports doctor Michele Ferrari, who helped orchestrate an elaborate doping program for Lance Armstrong, has opened a “Pandora’s box” of shady dealings worth millions, according to a report by La Gazzetta dello Sport. On Thursday, the Italian daily reported that a probe, launched by Padua investigators in 2010, has uncovered a world of shady business dealings and money laundering spread across several European countries.
Under the headline “The Ferrari System,” La Gazzetta reported that investigators had uncovered a system in which up to 30 million euros circulated thanks to the use of Swiss bank accounts and complicit individuals in key positions.
The report labeled it the “largest doping investigation in sports history”, dwarfing the Operation Puerto scandal, which implicated dozens of cyclists and athletes in a blood doping network run by a Madrid laboratory.
Ferrari has recently denied helping Armstrong to dope, despite many testimonies citing the Italian in evidence against the American.
But according to La Gazzetta, Ferrari faces several charges, including conspiracy to smuggle, distribute, administer and use performance enhancing drugs, tax evasion and money laundering.
Ferrari’s son Stefano, the sports agent Raimondo Scimone, two bank managers from Lucerne and Neuchatel, and Swiss lawyer, Rocco Taminelli — who regularly took up the defense of riders charged with doping offences — face similar charges, according to the report.
Padua investigators are expected to wrap up their case at the end of the month, the newspaper added. If found guilty, Ferrari is likely to face criminal penalty.
According to the report, investigators discovered that Ferrari and his collaborators provided an “all inclusive package” to top athletes and cyclists. Upon the signing of contracts, they were offered a training/doping program, information on how to cheat the anti-doping system and the services of a lawyer in the event of a positive test.
Dozens of athletes were reportedly implicated and sometimes entire cycling teams.
The “Ferrari System” also allowed athletes and teams to beat the financial regulators and the sports authorities, the report said.
Ferrari reportedly used a Neuchatel bank account, where he knew the director, to help launder the proceeds of his crimes he had amassed in Italy.
The sports agent Scimone is alleged, thanks to his links with a bank director in Lucerne, to have aided a number of top cyclists in avoiding paying taxes through the transfer of monies through different bank accounts. Riders in the crosshairs of prosecutors include Leonardo Bertagnolli (Lampre-ISD), Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD), Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack-Nissan), Giovanni Visconti (Movistar), Michele Scarponi (Lampre), Morris Possoni (Lampre), Diego Caccia (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia), Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha), Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha), Vladimir Gusev (Katusha), Vladimir Karpets (Movistar), Evgeni Petrov (Astana), Denis Menchov (Katusha) and Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini).