By Shane Stokes
At a preliminary hearing Monday in Rimini, Italy, Judge Giacomo Gasparini examined the proposed sentences for three of the five people accused of being complicit in 1998 Tour de France winner Marco Pantani's death on on February 14, 2003 by supplying him with cocaine.
If Judge Gasparini finds the three guilty, State Prosecutor Gengarelli requested that the three, who have sought a plea bargain, should go to prison. Fabio Miradossa could be sentenced to four years and ten months, with Ciro Veneruso getting three years and 10 months for selling the cocaine in question while another man, Peruvian Alfonso Gherardo Ramirez Queva, could be sentenced to one year and 11 months behind bars.
Two other defendants in the Pantani case, Fabio Carlino and Elena Korovina have requested jury trials, so no preliminary sentencing motions were made in their cases by Prosecutor Gengarelli.
Pantani reached the zenith of his career in 1998 when he won the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France, becoming the last rider to achieve the historic double. The climbing specialist returned to the Giro d'Italia in 1999 and looked to have the race sewn up, only to test over the UCI's 50% cutoff level for hematocrit and was ejected from the race.
From that point on, his career went into a downward spiral, the Italian briefly returning to something approaching his best form when he won two stages in the 2000 Tour de France. However, unbeknownst to his supporters, Pantani had been wrestling cocaine addiction and while he made several attempts to quit the drug and get back on track, he eventually quit cycling in 2003. The 34 year old became more withdrawn and, tragically, died alone in the Le Rose di Rimini hotel, on Valentine's Day 2004.
An inquest into his death concluded that he had died after consuming a particularly strong batch of cocaine. The finding led to a large police investigation, the prosecution of Miradossa, Veneruso and Ramirez Queva, and their sentencing yesterday.