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Vini Fantini races ahead despite continuing doping woes

MILAN (VN) — The Vini Fantini-Selle Italia doping investigation rumbles ahead under Italy’s new anti-doping prosecutor. After its first hearing, Vini Fantini’s management heads back in the wake of two EPO positives at the Giro d’Italia last month.

Yesterday, the Italian federation’s head prosecutor, Giovanni Grauso, called in several team members for another meeting on June 20 at his office in Rome. The team officials had already been heard on June 3 for the Danilo Di Luca case, the same day that the UCI announced that Mauro Santambrogio also failed a drug test.

Di Luca tested positive for EPO in a pre-Giro test and after the results came through, he was booted out of the race on May 24. Santambrogio, also a rider for the second division Italian team, won a stage and placed ninth overall. While Vini Fantini’s brass sat in Grauso’s office discussing the Di Luca matter, the worst news broke: Santambrogio, the squad’s Giro star, tested positive for EPO in a test dating back to the Giro’s first stage in Naples. Grauso’s case now grew even more interesting.

Team manager Angelo Citracca, sports director Luca Scinto, and doctor Daniele Tarsi are scheduled to return to Rome along with the team’s Venezuelan rider, Yonathan Monsalve. Italian rider Fabio Taborre, according to the team, will also attend. Vini Fantini owner Valentino Sciotti will visit with Grauso tomorrow regarding Di Luca, who he insisted on hiring, and with the rest of the team on June 20.

Grauso wants to know what they knew about Di Luca and Santambrogio and learn more about the team’s inner-workings.

Ciao, Torri

Di Luca and Santambrogio, assuming their B samples confirm their positive tests, will meet with the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) and face sanctions ranging from two years to life. Di Luca was already busted twice and Santambrogio has been entangled in the Mantova Investigation for the past four years.

Tammaro Maiello will oversee the cases, instead of Ettore Torri. CONI on Tuesday replaced the 80-year-old with a new anti-doping prosecutor, the 55-year-old Maiello.

Torri, since joining in 2006, handled some of the most notorious doping cases. In 2008, he helped link Spain’s Alejandro Valverde to Operación Puerto using a DNA sample from the Giro d’Italia. He also dealt with Ivan Basso and Riccardo Riccò.

Maiello’s promotion was part of a CONI assembly. CONI also split the body into two sectors, one to cover amateurs and one to cover professionals, like Vini Fantini’s riders.

Vini Fantini, after its cases in RCS Sport’s Giro d’Italia, said that it would not race in its famous fall classic, the Giro di Lombardia. It explained it was out of respect for the organizer, but risked having its invitation revoked in any case.

The team continues to race. A press release last week read, “The team, despite the cases of Di Luca and Santambrogio that have partially undermined the serenity of the team, will continue in its project, so in 2013 as in 2014.”

Francesco Chicchi won the two-race Jurmala GP series over the weekend. The team also races in the Tour de Luxembourg and Tour de Slovénie this week. However, organizers may become reluctant to invite Vini Fantini as its riders and management are under investigation at home.