By Tim Maloney, European Editor
Lance Armstrong's quick trip to Italy Wednesday was to take a pro-active step to resolve the various legal actions that are hanging over his head from conflicts with Italian rider Filippo Simeoni.
First some history. After Armstrong and Simeoni had their interesting interlude on Stage 18 to Lons-le-Saunier in last year's Tour de France, Simeoni and his Domina Vacanze team manager Vincenzo Santoni called the carabinieri of the NAS (Nuclei Anti-Sofisticazione) to complain that Armstrong had threatened Simeoni during the race. Simeoni was the key witness in an ongoing doping case against Dr. Michele Ferrari, a long-time training consultant of Armstrong. Following these complaints, Giuseppe Quattrocchi, the prosecutor of Lucca, opened an investigation into the matter early in August 2004. The potential charges against Armstrong from the alleged acts are for "violenza privata", or personal intimidation.
After watching this matter drag on, Armstrong decided to take matters into his own hands and the American Tour champion asked his lawyer, Enrico Nan, who is also a deputy in the Italian Parliament for Premier Silvio Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, to set up a meeting with Procura Quattrocchi. On Wednesday, March 30, Armstrong flew into Pisa Airport on his private jet and travelled to nearby Lucca for his meeting with Quattrocchi, where he was deposed by Italian judicial authorities. After his meeting with Quattrocchi, Armstrong told La Gazzetta dello Sports's Pier Bergonzi, "It was a meeting I specifically asked for...the Italian magistrate seemed like a person who knew what he was doing. He was very polite and civil and I think he appreciated my willingness to come to talk to him face to face. I told him everything. I told him the complete truth about what happened (with Simeoni). I explained the details what happened that day and what I really said. I just told the truth of what happened."
Now that the American has talked to Italian authorities, it's likely that he can now come back to Italy without fear of any surprise interrogations by the NAS carabinieri. After his deposition, Armstrong jumped in his jet and headed home to Girona, ,Spain to prepare for the Tour Of Flanders on Sunday. Although the Italian media is now speculating that Armstrong is trying to clear up his legal troubles in Italy because he wants to ride the upcoming Giro d'Italia, Cyclingnews sources close to Armstrong tell us that's unlikely as this year's Giro course is simply not for the American Tour De France champion. For now, all eyes are awaiting Armstrong's upcoming press conference in Georgia on April 18, where speculation is rife that the six time Tour champ may announce his retirement at the end of 2005.