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Rasmussen calls Italian doping investigation a “witch hunt”

By:
Susan Westemeyer
Published:
August 26, 2011, 10:27 BST,
Updated:
August 26, 2011, 12:08 BST
Edition:
Second Edition Cycling News, Friday, August 26, 2011
Michael Rasmussen (Christina Watches - Onfone) warms up for the afternoon time trial.

Michael Rasmussen (Christina Watches - Onfone) warms up for the afternoon time trial.

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CONI announces new dates for September questioning

Michael Rasmussen has described the Italian doping investigation into his relations with a Mantova pharmacist as a “witch hunt” and claimed that there is no evidence against him. The Dane is scheduled to be questioned by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) in Rome on Monday.

“I must say that the witch hunt continues. There is simply no case and there are no doping tests or telephone intercepts or anything else to substantiate the charges against me,” Rasmussen told ekstrabladet.de.

The police and subsequent sporting investigation by CONI officials is looking into the possible distribution and use of amphetamines, growth hormone and other drugs from a pharmacy owned by Guido Nigrelli in Mariana Mantova. He worked closely with many of the riders and staff at the Lampre team.

Rasmussen said that he knew Nigrelli and used the pharmacy for his family's needs. “I bought medicine for my wife, my child, my dogs and myself, and I therefore know Nigrelli very well. I have never denied that," he said.

Italian investigators have taped telephone conversations between Rasmussen and Nigrelli. The cyclist said that those conversations were held while he was suspended (2007-2009), and that Nigrelli was trying to help him get a place on the Lampre team.

“There is absolutely no talk of illegal products or illegal practices. The interceptions only confirm that I know Guido Nigrelli,” he said.

Rasmussen called the investigation “a weird situation but I look forward to closing the matter once and for all.” He added: “If the charges weren't so serious and if the case didn't have such serious consequences, it'd just be ridiculous. It's I who must prove my innocence and not the system which must prove my guilt.”

Further hearing dates announced

CONI has announced a re-scheduled series of hearings through September, related to the case. Emanuele Bindi, formerly of Lampre, is scheduled for today at noon. Dr Fiorenzo Egeo Bonazzi, who has been linked to an alleged attempted blood transfusion by Alessandro Ballan, is scheduled for September 5.

Mountain biker Nicola Castrini is scheduled for questioning on September 6, with Lampre team manager Giuseppe Saronni scheduled for September 7. Former DS Fabrizio Bontempi and rider Marco Bandiera, formerly with Lampre and now with Quick Step, are scheduled for September 13, and Pietro Caucchioli for the 14th. He is also a former Lampre rider, who in 2009 was suspended under the biological passport programme.

The final hearing is on September 20 for 2004 Giro d'Italia winner Damiano Cunego, who has been with Lampre since 2005.

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