MILAN (VN) — Michele Ferrari must have watched the Lance Armstrong/Oprah Winfrey interview with delight, seeing his old friend and client save him yet again. Being key to Armstrong’s drug-fueled Tour de France wins, surely he felt relieved his name was mentioned only three times in two and a half hours.
“There are people in this story, they are good people, we’ve all made mistakes, they are not toxic and evil. I viewed Dr. Michele Ferrari as a good man and I still do,” Armstrong said.
When Winfrey said she heard that Ferrari was the doping boss, Armstrong replied: “I’m not comfortable talking about other people. It’s all out there.”
Tutto Bici magazine’s Pier Augusto Stagi told VeloNews he felt Winfrey fell short as an inquisitor.
“‘He’s a friend, a great person.’ Armstrong was ambiguous,” Stagi said. “I was very let down by Winfrey. You could have put a robot there to do that. She didn’t know how to read Armstrong; she just had the questions. Armstrong dominated the interview, Oprah didn’t really need to be there.”
That was part one on Thursday night. On Friday night — early morning Saturday in Italy — Ferrari’s name did not even come up.
Sports writer David Walsh of The Sunday Times, who co-wrote “LA Confidential” and helped open the Armstrong/Ferrari link in July 2001, said the interview “was fine in as far as it went, but it did not go nearly far enough.”
On his Twitter account, he added, “The more I think about the interview, the more conscious I become of the evasions and non-answers.”
Armstrong admitted to the cortisone cover-up from the 1999 Tour and to employing the Motoman, reportedly Philippe Maire, who delivered EPO in the 1999 Tour. Why would Armstrong not admit to his hospital room confession in 1996, a UCI cover-up or Ferrari?
Betsy Andreu, who has long proclaimed that Armstrong confessed to using performance-enhancing substances in that hospital room, says he may be protecting those who testified for him — like Stephanie McIlvain — in the SCA Promotions hearing over bonuses to be paid for victories in the Tour. He may be also trying to protect Ferrari, who is under investigation on charges of money laundering, tax evasion and other crimes.
Italian public prosecutor Benedetto Roberti, who is close to closing his case against Ferrari, reportedly uncovered a business worth 30 million euros. Leaked police reports published in La Gazzetta dello Sport in October indicate that cycling teams paid their riders under false image contracts to channel money to Ferrari, who would offer training and legal advice, and of course, doping.
Ferrari trained under Francesco Conconi and worked as a team doctor before taking on a consulting role for riders like Armstrong. He was banned in Italy from working with athletes and narrowly escaped a criminal case. As part of its Armstrong investigation, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency nailed him last summer and issued a global lifetime ban.
“USADA has found overwhelming proof that Dr. Michele Ferrari facilitated doping for numerous members of [Armstrong's] teams,” read USADA’s “reasoned decision.”
“[Riders testified to] Dr. Ferrari’s involvement in doping, including through advice regarding the use of EPO and blood doping. … Ferrari’s background and connections likely explain Armstrong’s extensive knowledge of the mechanics behind EPO testing.”
It showed Armstrong worked with Ferrari through 2010 and evidence of payments totaling $1 million.
Like Armstrong, the 59-year-old Ferrari decided not to defend himself against the agency’s charges.
“I’ve never seen any doping practice from Lance Armstrong. I can say I’ve never seen, I never heard something about that. He never asked me for information about doping,” Ferrari said last month in an interview with Al Jazeera.
“My relationship with some teammates of Lance Armstrong was very, very short and occasional. It was not strict. There are six riders that accused me, but these riders, I didn’t have any relationship, any consulting, with these guys.”
Ferrari, thanks to Armstrong, appears to be having a last laugh before Roberti closes his criminal case.