Filippo Pozzato has spoken about his collaboration with Dr. Michele Ferrari for the first time and said that the intercepted telephone conversation that led the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) to recommend a one-year ban was not recorded by police but by his former teammate Guido Trenti.
In an interview with Cycling Pro published on Monday, Pozzato said that he began working with Ferrari in June 2005, 10 days after the conclusion of that year’s Giro d’Italia. “I maintain that I’m not guilty of anything and so I have no problem in admitting to anyone who asks that I frequented Michele Ferrari,” he said.
Ferrari continued to be Pozzato’s sole trainer until the middle of 2008, in which time he won Milan-San Remo and Het Volk, although Pozzato said that he saw Ferrari on two further occasions between 2008 and 2010, when he was formally trained by Sandro Callari. Pozzato said that he had worked with a variety of other trainers over the years, including Luigi Cecchini and Aldo Sassi, but that Ferrari “was the best. Everybody knows that.”
“I went regularly until the middle of 2008, then I started going less,” Pozzato said. “By less, I mean that if before I did a test with him every twenty days, I then started going less frequently and speaking with him only by phone.”
Pozzato said that Ferrari’s fee was lower than the €40,000 per year reported in the Italian media. “Other trainers copy the programmes that he invented, and they don’t always do it well,” he said. “He has a training system that is different and more advanced than everything else. He radically changed my way of doing resistance climbs, for instance. I improved more in a few weeks with him than in six months with others.
“Others often wear you out with work. He knows how to dose work and above all recovery. At the highest level, that makes the difference.”
Pozzato said that he always wore his team kit while training under Ferrari’s supervision at locations such as Monzuno, Monte Grappa, Livigno and the Albula Pass. Ferrari’s infamous camper van was “there for me to shower in when I’d finished.”
The Italian denied that his fractious departure from Liquigas at the end of 2008 was caused by tensions over his rapport with Ferrari, and he said that all of his teams – QuickStep, Liquigas, Katusha and now Farnese Vini-Selle Italia – were aware of their collaboration.
Ferrari was banned for life by the Italian Cycling Federation (FCI) on the back of rider testimony relating to his activities in 2002, and riders found to be working with him are liable to suspension, but Pozzato claimed that he didn’t know that it was forbidden to frequent him. “I’ve looked but found nothing about it in the CONI or UCI papers,” he said.
Pozzato took a pragmatic view when asked if he felt uneasy at working with a figure who had such an undesirable reputation, stemming back to his controversial spell as Gewiss team doctor in the 1990s. Ferrari has recently been charged with doping by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, along with Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel.
“Listen, I race with a load of riders and directeurs sportifs, who have had long suspensions for heavy acts of doping,” he said. “Why should I feel uneasy about being trained by someone who has never been condemned and who has never made a mistake. Work is work.”
News of Pozzato’s collaboration with Ferrari first broke in La Repubblica in mid-June, when the newspaper published an excerpt from a phone conversation dating from the summer of 2009, in which Pozzato spoke of working with Ferrari. It was initially reported that the conversation had been recorded by police as part of an investigation into Ferrari’s activities, but Pozzato said that it was in fact carried out by his former teammate Guido Trenti, who ride with Pozzato at Fassa Bortolo, QuickStep and Liquigas, but did not move with him to Katusha in 2009.
“We were roommates for years,” he said. “I always brought him with me to new teams and got him nice contracts, but then the relationship eased a bit because I didn’t want to mix with him anymore. After that he was in touch two or three times maybe. I lent him some money that I never saw again. Again last year, he came to my house crying, asking me for money. Then this happened.”
According to Pozzato’s lawyer Pierfilippo Capello, CONI does not hold a copy of the recording, but called his client to a hearing on the basis of the excerpts printed in La Repubblica in June. Following Pozzato’s deposition in Rome in June, CONI recommended that he be handed a one-year ban, and his case is due to be heard in the coming weeks. Regardless of the outcome, there will be no resolution before the London 2012 Olympics and Pozzato was left out of the Italian team, which was announced last week.
Pozzato’s lawyer Pierfilipo Capello said that he will fight against the proposed suspension on the grounds that Ferrari’s life suspension was never formally confirmed by CONI or the FCI, and that the regulation barring riders from frequenting him has never been properly enshrined into the rulebook.
When asked how many other riders work with Ferrari, Pozzato said: “It’s not up to me to say that, but in the peloton everybody knows who goes to Ferrari, just like everybody knows that I used to go. It would be enough for CONI to ask everybody else the same question that they asked me.”