Italian police could be about to again investigate Marco Pantani's exclusion from the 1999 Giro d'Italia after new evidence appeared to bolster accusations by a former violent criminal that the Naples Camorra mafia some how sparked Pantani's exclusion to avoid paying huge sums in illegal bets that il Pirata would win the Giro.
According to Gazzetta dello Sport, police in Naples secretly recorded a camorra member confirming the claims of Renato Vallanzasca and the recording has been passed on to police in Forli already investigating Pantani's death. Police have also questioned riders, team staff and the doctors who took Pantani's blood sample that morning in Madonna di Campiglio as they try to find out if there is any truth to the accusations. Previous investigations by police in Trento and other parts of the Italian media have dismissed any kind of plot against Pantani but his tragic story continues to inspire conspiracy theories and questions in Italy and so spark major headlines.
Gazzetta dello Sport is not new to making headline-grabbing claims about Pantani, going as far as suggesting he could have been murdered in the hotel where his body was found on February 14 2005. A detailed police investigation and autopsy review demonstrated that Pantani died of a cocktail of anti-depressants and cocaine but Pantani's mother and her high-profile lawyers continue to try to clear Pantani's name, with Gazzetta dello Sport happy to back up their case.
Renato Vallanzasca first made the wild claims about the Camorra being behind Pantani's exclusion from the Giro d'Italia in a book in 2004 and repeated them on Italian television in 2014. He was questioned by police and gave three names of possible camorra criminals who could have told him to "bet on Pantani's rivals because he would not make it to Milan." Police apparently question the three suspects but all denied the claims. However the latest Gazzetta dello Sport report claims that as part of another police investigation, one of the three was later overheard saying "Of course Vallanzasca's story is true. I thought he was a man of honour but instead he's a piece of shit by speaking to the carabinieri (police)."
Gazzetta dello Sport describes this conversation as an 'ace' in the investigation's hand that could help them find an answer to the case with anti-mafia investigators set to become involved.
However as both Matt Rendell –author of extremely detailed and well researched book on Pantani called "The death of Marco Pantani" and Italian journalist Andrea Rossini who this year published 'Delitto Pantani – The Pantani Crime'; there is little or no evidence on how the Camorra managed to alter Pantani's blood values. The Italian police carefully investigated the blood tests done by the three UCI-appointed doctors and ruled it was carried correctly. Possible deplasmation –the altering of the concentration of Pantani's blood, to make him fail the test, have been widely dismissed.
Pantani always claimed he was innocent, with the 1999 Giro d'Italia sparking his cocaine use and eventual tragic demise. However other historic evidence indicates that his blood values recorded that day were impossible to achieve without the use of significant doses of EPO.