Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport claims that Giuseppe Saronni is ready to step down as team manager at the troubled Lampre-ISD team as the sponsors look to make sweeping changes after riders and staff were embroiled in a doping investigation in Mantova.
Last week the Mantova public prosecutor Antonino Condorelli revealed details of a two-year investigation into the relations between pharmacist Guido Nigrelli and riders and staff from the Lampre team. Under Italian law, a judge will now decide if the 32 people named will go on trial, with a decision is expected within the next two months. The 32 include Saronni, several directeur sportif and leading riders such as team leader Damiano Cunego and former Lampre riders Alessandro Ballan, now with BMC, and Marzio Bruseghin, who now rides for Movistar.
Gazzetta dello Sport claims that Saronni has hinted to the Italian Cycling Federation president Renato DI Rocco that he was ready to step aside and Roberto Damiani has been identified by the Galbusera family that own the Lampre company as the person to revolutionise the team.
Damiani is under contract with Omega Pharma-Lotto as a directeur sportif but tried to leave the team last year to work with Lampre. When the Belgian team blocked the move, he took on a consultant role at the Mapei centre, working with some of the young Lampre riders who visited the centre for testing and coaching.
Damiani refused to confirm the news when contacted by Cyclingnews, insisting he was a directeur sportif with Omega Pharma-Lotto. However Gazzetta dello Sport suggest he could take legal action to end his contract and take over the team within weeks so that the team makes a clean start in time for the Giro d'Italia that begins on May 7.
Gazzetta claim there could be widespread changes at the team, with only Orlando Maini remaining as a directeur sportif. He joined Lampre this year after working with Katusha, LPR and Marco Pantani's Mercatone Uno team in the past.
The team would be rebuilt around young riders such as double junior world champion Diego Ulissi and Under 23 world time trial champion Adriano Malori.
The future of Damiano Cunego in the new-look Lampre team remains unclear however Gazzetta suggests that both Alessandro Petacchi and new signing Michele Scarponi would be part of the team for the Giro d'Italia. Scarponi is involved in the Padova investigation and was searched by police while training on Mount Etna on Wednesday, while Petacchi is under investigation by the Anti-Doping Procura after teammate and close friend Lorenzo Bernucci was suspended along with his family for doping.
Saronni has managed teams virtually since he retired as a professional in 1989 and has a very close relationship with the Galbusera family that owns the Lampre company. Despite several doping scandals in the past the team has survived and is one of only two Italian ProTeams in the sport along with Liquigas-Cannondale.
Gazzetta dello Sport points out that T-Mobile quit cycling in 2007 for similar accusations of widespread doping within the team. It suggests the only way for Lampre-ISD to survive is if major changes are made.