Lampre-ISD suspended 2011 Giro d’Italia winner Michele Scarponi without pay Tuesday after confirming links to controversial Italian doctor Michele Ferrari.
Scarponi met with Italian officials Tuesday in Rome to clarify his links to Ferrari, but Lampre team officials told VeloNews that Scarponi would be suspended indefinitely until investigators can determine exactly what the Italian rider did with Ferrari.
“Our rules say that a rider cannot have contact with someone like Ferrari,” Lampre spokesman Andrea Appiani told VeloNews on Tuesday. “Our contracts forbid a rider to have contact with a subject who is not allowed by the federation. It is because of his meetings with Ferrari he is suspended.”
Since 2002, Ferrari has been banned by the Italian Olympic committee (CONI) to have contacts with Italian athletes, but revelations last week by investigators in Padua painted a picture that the doctor, who was central to the Lance Armstrong doping ring, is still very active among scores of top cyclists.
Italian police tapped Ferrari’s camper van, where he often meets with riders, and overheard conversations between Ferrari and Scarponi. During one meeting, Ferrari reportedly told Scarponi he was “one blood bag” away from winning the 2010 Giro d’Italia.
Scarponi finished second to Alberto Contador in that Giro, only later to be awarded the title when Contador was banned for two years as part of his clenbuterol case dating back to the 2010 Tour de France.
Italian riders who simply associate themselves with the controversial Ferrari can be banned. Filippo Pozzato, for example, missed the Olympic Games this summer after it was revealed he was working with Ferrari and received a three-month ban.
On Tuesday, Scarponi confirmed to La Gazzetta dello Sport that he met voluntarily with investigators in Rome on Tuesday morning to “clarify” his association with Ferrari, who has received a lifetime ban by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for his links to the Armstrong scandal.
Scarponi insists he met with Ferrari twice for testing in September 2010, in the months before he joined Lampre-ISD for the start of the 2011 season.
“I admitted that I visited Ferrari for two tests in September 2010, when I was at the end of my contract with (Diquigiovanni-Androni),” Scarponi said in a statement to La Gazzetta. “Later, I signed with Lampre and have since been working with the Mapei (Training) Center. I was convinced that Ferrari was not banned and I acted in good faith.”
That admission, however, was enough for Lampre to suspend Scarponi indefinitely without pay.
“It is important to remember that this contact came before he was part of Lampre,” Appiani said. “We have the language in the contract of all riders on Lampre. We will wait to see what happens. Until then, he is suspended from the team.”
Scarponi had recently signed a one-year contract extension with Lampre though the 2013 season.
Scarponi already served an 18-month ban for admitting his role in the Operación Puerto doping ring dating back to 2006. A second doping infraction could result in a lifetime ban for the Italian rider.
With the slow hand of justice in Italy, Scarponi could be sidelined for some time as investigators dig through the evidence and decide if any rules or laws have been broken.