Dr. Michele Ferrari, the infamous coach and sports doctor, who was banned for life by USADA for doping Lance Armstrong and other athletes from the US Postal Service team, has been found guilty of doping Italian biathlete Daniel Taschler by a court in Bolzano.
Dr. Ferrari was given an 18-month suspended prison sentence and a fine. He was also ordered to pay WADA 15,000 Euro as part of a civil verdict. Taschler was given a nine-month suspended sentence, while his father, who was a one-time Italian Biathlon nation coach an vice-president of the International Biathlon Federation, was given a one-year sentence. Dr. Ferrari has always denied any wrong doing.
Police used phone taps to listen in on conversations between Dr. Ferrari and Taschler. Prosecuters believe they included instructions on how to take EPO and details of secret telephone numbers where Dr. Ferrari could be contacted. Taschler had pushed his son to work with Dr. Ferrari as a way to boost his athletic career.
This latest investigation was sparked by the Padua investigation which helped uncover financial payments from Armstrong to Dr. Ferrari and other evidence that was used to condemn the Texan. It was moved to Bolzano because the first contact between Taschler and Dr. Ferrari is alleged to have occurred near the biathlete’s home.
First guilty vedict
It is the first time that Dr. Ferrari has been found guilty of doping in a court despite a long history of doping accusations going back to the early nineties when the huge benefits of EPO were first discovered.
He was found guilty of sporting fraud and illegally working as a pharmacist in 2006 after key testimony from former rider Filippo Simeoni. He was eventually cleared on appeal of the latter charge, while the statute of limitations and the slow legal process in Italy allowed him to avoid the case reaching a final verdict.
Doping became a crime in Italy in 2000, making it far easier for prosecutors to persue doctors and athletes who dope.
Ferrari was banned for life by the Italian Cycling Federation in 2002 but appealed to a regional court to have the ban lifted because of a WADA rule change. He claims the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) failed to properly notify him and every licenced athlete of his ban. In the past, several riders were banned for just three months because they claimed they did not know Ferrari had been banned in 2002.
Dr. Ferrari is infamous for comparing EPO to orange juice in 1994 when he worked with the Gewiss team that dominated racing at the time.
“EPO is not dangerous, it's the abuse that is. It's also dangerous to drink 10 liters of orange juice,” he reportedly told l’Equipe and other European media.
Dr. Ferrari still runs a personal coaching business but in November 2015 he claimed he had retired from coaching professional athletes when speaking to Italian journalist Marco Bonarrigo of the Corriere della Sera newspaper. Ferrari tried to block the showing of 'The Program' in Italy, the movie that told the story of David Walsh's pursuit of Lance Armstrong. A scene portrayed Dr. Ferrari injecting EPO but he claimed it was not true.
“I’ve retired and I’m not interested in coaching anymore," he told Bonarrigo. "They still go fast, even without me: you saw the Tour de France didn’t you?”