Italian police obtained the medical records of five Russian riders from the Katusha team and searched the homes of Michele Scarponi and Leonardo Bertagnolli on Thursday. The two developments appear to be just the tip of the iceberg of a much bigger investigation into Dr Michele Ferrari that is linked to the Federal investigation headed by Jeff Novtizky into Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service team.
The Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper says the five Russian riders are Vladimir Karpets, Vladimir Gusev, Mikhail Igniatiev, Evgeni Petrov and Aleksander Kolobnev. Petrov now rides for the Astana team but rode for Katusha until this season. All five riders live in Spain.
According to chief cycling correspondent at Gazzetta dello Sport Luca Gialanella, the seven riders are on a long list of names that are suspected of being clients of Dr Ferrari's. Armstrong was perhaps Ferrari's best know client but formally ended the relationship when Ferrari was found guilty of sporting fraud in 2004. Despite the ongoing investigation, Armstrong has always denied doping.
Gazzetta describes Scarponi as the surprising new entry on the client list. However when contacted by Cyclingnews, Scarponi flatly denied working with Dr Ferrari.
"Absolutely not. No way," he said before ending the conversation because he was about to board a plane.
A detailed investigation
The investigating magistrate Roberti has been investigating doping in cycling for three years but has refused to reveal any details and there have been few leaks to the media. He has already gathered precious information from the likes of Danilo Di Luca and Emanuele Sella, who gave details of their doping to obtain a reduction in their suspensions from the sport.
However it appears Roberti's role in the coordinated investigation into Lance Armstrong by Novitzky has lead him to target the activities of Dr Ferrari and his possible links to some of the sports leading riders.
In November Roberti confirmed to the Associated Press news agency that he had traveled to the headquarters of Interpol in Lyon, France, to talk to Novitzky of the US Federal Drug Administration. USADA CEO Travis Tygart, U.S. federal prosecutor Doug Miller and FBI special agent Olivier Faraole were also present at the meeting and also met with police officers from France, Spain and Belgium.
Dr Ferrari lives in Ferrara but is known to work with riders in Tenerife and during the summer at altitude in St Moritz, in Switzerland, close to the Italian border town of Livigno.
He went on trial in Bologna in 2005 for sporting fraud and illegal acting as a pharmacist in 2004. He was found guilty and given an 11- month suspended sentence but was cleared of the illegal acting as a pharmacist on appeal and the accusations of sporting fraud were quashed due to the slow legal process in Italy and the statute of limitations.
Gazzetta dello Sport claim that Swiss police have been monitoring Dr Ferrari's movements, while the Italian police have been gathered as much information as possible. Roberti specifically talked about the role of sports doctors to the Associated Press in the only interview he has given to the media.
"The problems start with the doctors, the team directors and the trainers. The athletes are the last rung on the ladder," he said last year.
In November Roberti ordered the search of Yaroslav Popovych's home in Tuscany and seized his mobile phones and computers after the Ukrainian was served with a subpoena and ordered to appear before a federal grand jury in Los Angeles. Popovych rode with Armstrong when he won his final Tour de France in 2005 and rode with Armstrong at Astana in 2009 and RadioShack in 2010.
It is not known if Italian police found any evidence on Popovych's computer but Gazzetta claim the case is rapidly coming to a close.