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Vincenzo Nibali brushes off claims he once worked with banned sports doctor

RISOUL, France (VN) — Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) has a firm grip on the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, but cannot control questions related to doping.

After adding to his lead over Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in Saturday’s mountaintop stage Saturday to Risoul, he brushed off past claims that he trained with Michele Ferrari in 2009.

“No, I never met him personally,” the 29-year-old Italian said. “I heard people talking, there were accusations that I worked with him in the past, but. …”

After the 2009 Tour de France, where Nibali placed seventh, Italian newspaper La Repubblica ran a story charging that he and Liquigas teammate Franco Pellizotti trained under Ferrari’s guidance in Livigno, Italy, and St. Moritz, Switzerland.

Italian sports director Ivano Fanini said in the August 5 article that proof existed that they trained wearing black, non-team clothing while Ferrari followed on a scooter, clutching a stopwatch.

“They said that there were photographs where he was following me with a stopwatch in hand. We are talking about a few years ago, when Ivano Fanini said that to an Italian journalist [Eugenio Capodacqua],” said Nibali.

“I sued, it went ahead for some time, but towards the end, they asked me to pull it because I was right, there was nothing to it. There were claims made, the photographs didn’t exist, nothing to give.”

Nibali’s case was made against La Repubblica, Capodacqua and Fanini. The newspaper dropped the case in 2011 and as a fine, Fanini paid around €4000 ($5,400) to a charity.

Nibali rode away from the allegations without any mud on his face, but the team and its other riders were linked to Ferrari or doping.

Pellizotti was stripped of his mountains-classification title from the 2009 Tour for abnormal biological passport values and served a two-year doping ban.

As part of the Lance Armstrong case, former Liquigas rider Leonardo Bertagnolli accused several of Nibali’s former teammates of working with Ferrari.

In an affidavit dated May 18, 2011, Bertagnolli said, “I know that many of my teammates went to Ferrari because we talked about it and the team knew: [Franco] Pellizotti, [Roman] Kreuziger, [Enrico] Gasparotto, [Francesco] Chicchi.”

In 2013, Kreuziger said that he worked with Ferrari from the fall of 2006 through 2007, but that he did not dope. In June of this year, the UCI’s Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CAFD) alleged that Kreuziger’s blood passport profile showed abnormalities from March to August 2011 and from April 2012 until the end of that year’s Giro d’Italia, and he was withdrawn from Tinkoff-Saxo’s Tour team.

The Italian doctor, known best for his dealings with Armstrong, has been banned twice in doping cases. In 2002, Ferrari was prohibited from working with cyclists in Italy. Riders like Michele Scarponi and Filippo Pozzato served backdated suspensions after investigators uncovered their ties to Ferrari.

Nibali continued racing, winning the 2010 Vuelta a España and the 2013 Giro d’Italia.