The Liquigas-Cannondale team has issued a detailed and complex statement, denying claims by former rider Leonardo Bertagnolli that he was given permission by team management to work with Dr. Michele Ferrari.
Bertagnolli made the claims when questioned by police from Padua on May 18, 2011 as part of detailed investigations into Ferrari for USADA.
Bertagnolli said he asked the Liquigas-Cannondale team management and its team doctor if he could be followed by Ferrari because of a long-standing thyroid problem. He agreed to pay Ferrari 12,000 Euro for treatment in 2007 and spent time in St Moritz, training with other Liquigas riders. He said Ferrari told him how to take EPO to avoid detection in anti-doping tests. There is no mention in the six-page statement and subsequent phone taps of Ferrari treating Bertagnolli for his thyroid problem.
Bertagnolli specifically names Franco Pellizotti, Roman Kreuziger, Enrico Gasparotto and Francesco Chicchi and claims that he knew that his then-Liquigas teammates worked with Ferrari because they talked about it and the team knew about it. He claims that Ferrari explained how to carryout blood transfusions in 2008 and even advised him on the model of industrial fridge to buy to conserve the blood.
Liquigas-Cannondale claim in their statement that riders were formally asked who their personal coaches were in 2007 and then in late 2007 a clause was added to rider contracts banning them from using external coaches. The only exception was Ivan Basso, who was allowed to work with the late professor Aldo Sassi.
Liquigas-Cannondale claims that "From 2008, Liquigas Sport continued its campaign and acts of prevention against doping by choosing not to renew contracts of riders where there was evidence that they didn’t respect this rule."
The team refused to name the riders involved when asked by Cyclingnews but gave information about Bertagnolli in the press release.
"It's important to deny what was said by Bertagnolli, that the team allowed him to visit Dr Ferrari for his thyroid problem: no athlete could see an external doctor other than the teams' own medical staff. Bertogliati was allowed to see a specialist endocrinologist in Ferrara, Prof Degli Uberti," the press release reads.
Doubts about Bertagnolli
Liquigas-Cannondale claims in the statement that the team's medical staff indicated that Bertagnolli had anomalies in his physiological values and so was only allowed to race a minimal number of races. They did not take any further action, claiming that there were only clues but no real evidence to take any other action against the rider.
“We worked hard internally to prevent any problems,” Paolo Zani, the president of Brixia sport- the team’s management company said in the statement.
“From 2008 the team has never hired riders who have had any kind of problems, even remotely, with doping. The only exception is Ivan Basso, who we believe is an example for young people to learn that it is possible to win clean.”
Bertagnolli left Liquigas after the 2008 season. He raced for Amica Chips in the spring of 2009 and then for Androni Giocattoli. In 2011 and 2012 he rode for Lampre-ISD and details in his statement to Italian police how he continued to work with Dr Ferrari until the end of 2010.
In June 2012, Bertagnolli retired after the UCI opened disciplinary proceedings based on apparent anomalies in his biological passport data.