Miguel Indurain is the latest multiple Tour de France winner to be associated with a doping scandal. Highly respected Italian anti-doping expert Sandro Donati claims to have evidence that Indurain and his Banesto team worked with Dr. Francesco Conconi in the nineties. There was however no definite proof of what service the payments were made for.
Donati, who now works as a researcher with the World Anti-Doping Agency, told nos.nl that Conconi “had contracts with Banesto for high amounts.”
Erwin Nijboer, a Dutch rider on the team at the time, confirmed the contact with the doctor, but said that it “was only to do the Conconi test.”
Donati expressed his doubts as to that statement. “I don't think that Banesto paid that much to have the riders tested.”
The story was confirmed by Dutch journalist Ludo van Klooster, who told Nos.nl that he saw the Banesto bus as the University of Ferrara, where Conconi worked. “I saw the entire team. Also Indurain. And Erwin Nijboer.”
Indurain won the Tour de France five consecutive years, from 1991 to 1995. He also won both the Giro d'Italia and Tour in the same year twice, in 1992 and 1993. He has always denied doping.
Other Conconi clients included Maurizio Fondriest, Ivan Gotti, Piotr Ugrumov, Claudio Chiappucci, Mario Cipollini, and the late Laurent Fignon.
Conconi is considered one of the founding father of modern-day sports physiology. He created the Conconi test to measure aerobic threshold and taught sports science to a number of sports doctors who went onto to work in cycling, including Dr. Michele Ferrari and Dr. Luigi Cecchini.
Conconi helped Francesco Moser break the hour record in 1984, with the Italian rider later admitting he used then legal blood transfusions to boost his performance. Conconi received funding from both the International Olympic Committee and the Italian Olympic Committee to work on a test to detect EPO in the early nineties, going as far to test the blood boosting drug on himself. However after years of research he failed to find a test and was later investigated for giving EPO to a number of professional athletes as part of his research.
A trial in Ferrara failed to reach a verdict on charges of sporting fraud due to delays and obstructions by Conconi's legal team. However the judge Franca Oliva described Conconi and two other doctors involved as "morally guilty" for promoting doping among the riders they worked with.