Former Tour de France champion Cadel Evans has confirmed contact with Dr. Michele Ferrari, an Italian doctor now banned for life following the outcome of USADA's investigation of the US Postal doping scheme this summer. Ferrari is also at the center of a vast money-laundering and doping ring investigation by Padua prosecutor Benedetto Roberti, where he could face criminal charges in the weeks to come.
Evans has admitted consulting Ferrari in the summer of 2000, but said that contact had been made only for a training test. "There was never any discussion of doping (with Dr Ferrari) or any sign of anything illegal," the 2011 Tour de France winner stated to Australian television SBS via e-mail.
Ferrari has been a prominent figure in the sport since his beginnings as team doctor of the Gewiss outfit in 1994, and has had a long list of clients over the years, including Lance Armstrong. The Italian has however always been closely linked to practising illegal performance-enhancing methods and may be about to be handed a prison sentence for alleged tax avoidance as well as his doping activities.
During the 2011 Tour, Ferrari posted an entry on his company website, 53x11, saying that he once tested Evans' physical abilities at a time when the Australian was considering switching from MTB to road racing.
"I agreed on testing him on the road in St. Moritz (in Switzerland)," Ferrari wrote. "After a 1-hour warm-up, we met on the Albula Pass at 1800m of altitude: Evans rode a stretch of 100m of total difference in height several times, at increasing intensities, checking the times, the heart rates and the lactic acid concentrations.
"His VAM (Italian for velocità ascensionale media, or average climbing speed) at 4 mM (millimoles; a measure of blood lactate concentration) was 1780 m/h (metres per hour), an excellent value considering the oxygen deficit due to altitude.
"I had him repeat the same test after 4 additional hours of riding, climbing the Albula and Julier Pass, with the purpose of checking his performance over distance: the result was a VAM = 1820 m/h, even better than the first test, probably because of the slight weight loss from the ride."
Evans has now confirmed the meeting. "I once completed a test of 2 x 20-30min supervised hill repetitions. Separated by a 4-hour ride which I completed solo. I have never seen or had contact before or after this test," the BMC rider said.
"I was recommended to take a test by my manager Tony Rominger to understand if I had the capabilities to race on the road. I took the test as Mr Ferrari described on his website. Mr Ferrari briefly explained the results to me and the meeting was over."
Evans insisted the sole purpose of the training test had been to evaluate his capacities in the light of future contract negotiations.
"My only motive at the time was to understand my capabilities as a road rider. At that time, Mr Ferrari's opinion was very highly regarded by teams and team managers, and therefore helpful for me to gain opportunities with road teams."
In 2001, Evans started his road career with Italian Team Saeco.