Michele Acquarone has reacted angrily after being fired from his role of director of the Giro d'Italia at RCS Sport, insisting he is in no way involved with the alleged misappropriation of several million Euro from the Italian company's accounts.
Italian magistrates in Milan have opened an investigation into an alleged misappropriation of close to 10 million Euro and RCS Sport dismissed Acquarone and RCS Sport CEO Giacomo Catano earlier this week after a lengthy internal investigation.
Speaking for the first time, Acquarone specified that he was not under investigation, had never stolen a single Euro from RCS Sport and vowed to clear his name and rebuild his career.
"I'm here because I need to get rid of the mud that has been thrown at me. I've not been able to speak because I was an employee of RCS. Today I need to say what I feel, to shout that I'm totally extraneous to what has happened," Acquarone said after reading a statement.
"I'm not under investigation but I can't see a single reason why I should be."
"I've never taken one Euro more than my salary. That'll be the most difficult thing to convince people. I was in the headlines, on the BBC and in the Washington Post. I hope I'll have the same headlines when I'm cleared. I want to prove my dignity to be 100% restored."
Acquarone was flanked by his lawyer, who carefully controlled his answers and stopped him talking about what happened at RCS sport and other people involved in the case. However he confirmed he will take legal action against RCS. He claimed he did not know anything about possible misappropriation of finds until this autumn.
"I was suspended and to be honest initially I wasn't worried. Everything seemed perfect when I came back from my holidays in September and we were ready to start working on the new season of events. After I was suspended, as the days passed I was hoping that things would be clarified. That didn’t happen until I was accused and then fired, with RCS saying "that I could have and should have stopped certain irregularities happening," he explained.
"I asked RCS to explain how I should and could have done that and asked for the reasons for me being fired. They replied that my request was an excuse and shouldn't have been made."
"People think I've fooled myself about being cleared but I'd hoped to go back to work right to the end. To find myself out of RCS Sport is devastating and feel I've been stabbed in the back three times."
Acquarone said he felt like a tiger in a cage and was determined to speak out. He now hopes to rebuild his professional career after 14 years at RCS.
"I've spent a long time thinking about my tomorrow. I'm 42. I've run a marathon in the past and now I've got to run another and start from scratch," he said.