A new book by Italian journalist Andrea Rossini has debunked theories that Marco Pantani could have been murdered.
Following a private investigation funded by Marco Pantani's family and a consequent decision by Italian police to reopen the investigation into his death, the Italian media, and especially Gazzetta dello Sport, has published a long series of speculative articles, suggesting that Pantani was somehow murdered by being forced to ingest a large quantity of cocaine.
Rossini's book, titled 'Delitto Pantani Ultimo Kilometro (Segreti e bugie)' - The Pantani Crime The Last Kilometre (Secrets and Lies), exposes the weaknesses in the murder theory by clarifying and responding to the many dubious questions raised by the reporting in much of the Italian media.
The Rimini Serious Crime Squad has also hit out at the style of the reporting in the Italian media and in an unusual move, the senior officers have issued a statement, confirming they are considering legal action to defend their work and reputation.
"Given the multiplication of accusations, voiced in sensationalist tones and diffused variously in print, broadcast, radio and new media, it no longer appears possible to remain silent and tolerate a media lynching that has taken unacceptable proportions and seems to be fed by specious and dogmatic reconstructions, often accompanied by so-called facts that are manifestly false," the statement reads.
Pantani is the last rider to ever win the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France in the same season but his success has been overshadowed by his demise after he was disqualified from the 1999 Giro d'Italia due to a high haematocrit level. Pantani always denied doping despite evidence to the contrary and his refusal to accept what had happened seemingly sparked his use of cocaine and led to mental problems. He died alone on St Valentine's Day 2004.
Rossini's book was published last week and will be officially presented on Monday evening in Rimini, possibly in the presence of Pantani's mother, Antonio De Rensis (the lawyer behind the private investigation), and Francesco Ceniti, who wrote many of the reports in Gazzetta dello Sport but who also wrote a book with Pantani's mother.
No concrete proof
Rossini is a crime reporter for the the local Corriere Romagna newspaper in Rimini, where Pantani's body was discovered in the Le Rose Residence. He followed the investigation of Pantani death and subsequent trial of his drug dealers closely and is convinced that Pantani died of a self-inflicted overdose. Matt Rendell, the author of arguably the definitive Pantani biography, is translating Rossini's book into English.
"I wrote the book because I wanted the truth to be know and defend the honest work I did as a journalist,” Rossini told Cyclingnews.
“This is not a commercial book, written to tug at the heartstrings of Pantani's fans. It's an honest book that I also hope will honour Pantani's life by telling the truth. Right or wrong, Pantani suffered a lot in the final years of his life and I think avoiding the truth and speculating about his demise and death does not help anyone. I hope the truth will somehow restore Pantani's dignity as a person.”
The private investigation driven by Pantani's mother and the speculative reports in the Italian media suggest that Pantani was forced to drink cocaine that had been dissolved in water. While it is true the level of cocaine found in Pantani's body was extremely high, Rossini explains in his book that the private investigation fails to find a real motive why someone would want to kill Pantani and fails to looks at the evidence on merit.
“That Pantani died of an overdose has been proven by the original autopsy and by the investigation done immediately after his death,” Rossini explained.
“The debate is about if he was forced to ingest the cocaine or if he simply took it himself. I think the hypothesis that he was forced to drink cocaine is not believable. We've got the evidence from the dealers that he bought and consumed huge amounts of cocaine and was close to dying of an overdose several time in the final months of his life. There is also the statement from the hotel receptionist that the door to Pantani's room was blocked from the inside, making it impossible for anyone to get in. The first autopsy also indicates that the scars found on Pantani's body were self inflicted and not caused by other people. The truth is that there is no real proof that Pantani was murdered.”