Franco Pellizotti and Vincenzo Nibali commenced anti-defamation action on Thursday after the publication of an article by Italian newspaper La Repubblica accusing the two riders of training with controversial Italian physician, Michele Ferrari prior to this year's Tour de France.
Italian website Tuttobiciweb reported on Thursday that both Pellizotti and Nibali denied having worked with Ferrari, with Nibali denying having ever met Ferrari. According to Tuttobiciweb, Pellizotti has asked lawyer Alessandra Rech to commence anti-defamation proceedings, while Nibali was reported to have engaged law firm Maluccio & Baldi in action against the authors of the alleged defamatory article.
The article, published in La Repubblica on Wednesday, featured quotes from Ivano Fanini, president of Continental squad Amore & Vita-McDonald. Fanini alleged that Pellizotti and Nibali had been training with Ferrari in Livigno before this year's Tour de France.
"There is evidence that Dr. Ferrari, in the weeks preceding the Tour de France, rode on a scooter between Livigno and Saint Morritz following a number of riders, including Nibali and Pellizotti, with a stopwatch in hand," said Fanini, according to La Repubblica.
Pellizotti won the mountains classification and the overall combativity prize at the French Grand Tour, while Nibali finished seventh in the general classification.
The La Repubblica article also alleged that two riders had worked with Ferrari in Livigno in 2007. Fanini said that, at the time, he had advised Liquigas manager, Robert Amadio, who confirmed to him that Nibali and Pellizotti were in Livigno. However, he said Amadio denied that the riders were training with Ferrari.
In 2004, Ferrari was convicted of sporting fraud and abusing his medical license to write prescriptions. He was sentenced by Judge Maurizio Passarini to suspend his medical license for one year and a fine of €900. However, in 2006 Passarini's judgment was overturned on appeal after the court ruled that the statute of limitations had expired on evidence presented in the original case.
It is not the first time Fanini has made allegations of a rider training with Michele Ferrari. In 2008, Fanini alleged that Leonardo Bertagnolli, who was riding for Liquigas at the time, had trained with Ferrari in Saint Moritz prior to his victory at the GP Città di Camaiore. Bertagnolli, who now rides for Italian pro continental team Amica Chips-Knauf denied any involvement with Ferrari.