Astana accused of systematic doping

Italian sports newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport have revealed many of the riders implicated in the Padova police investigation as clients of banned doctor Michele Ferrari. The newspaper lists 38 professional and Under 23 riders, going onto suggest that 17 Astana riders have links with Dr. Ferrari.

The full 550-page Padova investigation documents the results of phone taps, house searches and the seizure of bank records, which were apparently handed over to the Italian Olympic Committee's doping investigators before the weekend. The Padova investigators called the inquiry Operation "Mito" (Legend), one of several nicknames used by riders to identify Dr. Ferrari. The investigation covers 2010 and 2011, and includes 230 pages of phone tap conversations.  

A number of riders have already been revealed as part of the investigation, including Michele Scarponi, Giovanni Visconti, Filippo Pozzato, Leonardo Bertagnolli, Evgeni Petrov and Vladimir Gusev. However, there are several new names revealed by Gazzetta dello Sport. Marco Marcato, Jose Joaquin Rojas and Borut Bozic have all been implicated in the latest article. Denis Menchov reportedly paid 50,000 Euro per year for Ferrari’s services.

Astana, Katusha and Lampre feature heavily in the list of current and former riders, with more than half of the riders between them. The release of these names is further bad news for Astana, who are still awaiting the result of the UCI Licence Commission on their WorldTour licence for 2015. It was reported in Gazzetta dello Sport on Tuesday that the Padova investigators had a picture of Ferrari attending a team training camp in November 2013, which Ferrari vehemently denied. Gazzetta and other Italian media has yet to publish the photo.

Former Astana rider Roman Kreuziger, who has been named in the list, is currently under investigation for anomalies in his blood passport during his time on the team. Team boss Alexandre Vinokourov has also been named. The Kazakhstan rider has already openly admitted to frequenting the doctor during his career. The report calls the links between Vinokourov and Ferrari ‘very close’ and claims that Vinokourov had arranged a contract with the Italian doctor for at least 10 Astana riders in 2010.

Ferrari reportedly used a combination of international sim cards, phone booths, Voip encryption and aliases to communicate with his clients.

The Astana team told Cyclingnews that the Kazakh squad would not make any comment on the matter until after the UCI Licence Commission delivers a verdict on the its WorldTour status later on Wednesday.

The implicated

Astana: According to Gazzetta, the Padova document suggests that there may be systematic doping within the Astana team thanks Dr. Ferrari's extremely close relationship with Vinokourov and links via his son Stefano Ferrari, who is often based in Montecarlo, where Vinokourov lives.

According to Gazzetta, the police reports reads: “Vinokourov is one of Ferrari's men. Almost all the Kazakh team - 17 riders - are followed by Ferrari.”

Gazzetta suggests that Stefano Ferrari carried out tests with Valentin Iglinskiy, who tested positive for EPO this summer along with his brother, Maxim. The police investigation also suggests that Stefano Ferrari worked as the link between his father and the Astana team.

“Stefano Ferrari says he's spoken to Vinokourov who would like to do a contract for at least 10/12 riders... If this contract comes off with Astana a good earning is gauranteed.” Gazzetta report, apparently quoting the Padova police.

Danilo Di Luca: After testing positive for CERA at the 2009 Giro d’Italia, Di Luca gave evidence to Padova investigators on December 14 of that year, apparently detailing the “Ferrari-system” and explaining how St. Moritz, Switzerland and Mount Teide, Tenerife were Ferrari’s preferred locations for carrying out blood transfusions.

According to Gazzetta, “it’s the most precious deposition ever received by a magistrate,” suggesting it was the launchpad for the Padova inquiry and indirectly also helped to bring down Lance Armstrong. In July 2010, Di Luca’s evidence was apparently circulated at a meeting in Lyon on the Armstrong case between European police and the FBI. Di Luca received a reduced ban from CONI for his collaboration, but was later banned for life after testing positive for EPO in May 2013.

Giovanni Visconti (Movistar): The Sicilian served a three-month ban for links to Dr. Ferrari. However Gazzetta suggests that the Italian could now fare further sanctions after using teammate Diego Caccia as a link to Dr. Ferrari. Visconti was apparently recorded talking to Ferrari about doping on May 4 and August 30 of 2010 via a bug hidden by police in Dr. Ferrari's camper van.

“Visconti uses Caccia because he's afraid that news would spread about him. He's terrified of being caught red handed,” Gazzetta reports, citing the police evidence.

“The contents supply clear elements regarding the use of banned substances by the rider, with clear references to variations in haemocratic values,” Gazzetta dello Sport quote the police evidence as saying. The two are quoted of talking about infusions and when exactly to do it, and about the use of blood diluter albumine.

Michele Scarponi: Gazzetta cites a line from the Padova report which states “the current inquiry shows that Scarponi continues to use doping to improve his performances.” The report apparently contains a damning transcript of a phone exchange between Scarponi and Ferrari following the 2010 Giro d’Italia, in which they appear to discuss blood doping.

“If only you had a bag, you would have won,” Ferrari says. Scarponi uses two phones – a Swiss phone for contact with Ferrari and an Italian one for discussions with his agent, Raimondo Scimone.

The report also details how Scarponi avoided taxes while riding for the Diquigiovanni team in 2010 by having €11,000 paid into an Italian account as tax-free mileage expenses and sums of €75,000 and €20,000 paid into a Swiss bank account. In 2011, Scarponi joined the Lampre team, which is coached centrally at the Mapei Centre. A phone tap from January 8 records Scarponi telling his Scimone that he “can’t leave the old road for this one.”

Full list of riders:

Leonardo Bertagnolli, Simone Boifava, Diego Caccia, Enrico Franzoi, Marco Frapporti, Omar Lombardi, Fabrizio Macchi, Marco Marcato, Andrea Masciarelli, Francesco Masciarelli, Simone Masciarelli, Daniele Pietropolli, Morris Possoni, Filippo Pozzato, Alessandro Proni, Michele Scarponi, Francesco Tizza, Giovanni Visconti, Ricardo Pichetta, Andrea Vaccher, Mauricio Ardila, Volodymyr Bileka, Borut Bozic, Maxim Gourov, Vladimir Gusev, Valentin Iglinskiy, Sergei Ivanov, Vladimir Karpets, Aleksander Kolobnev, Dimitri Kozontchuk, Roman Kreuziger, Denis Menchov (Rus), Evgeni Petrov, Yaroslav Popovych, José Joaquin Rojas (Spa), Ivan Rovny, Egor Silin, Alexandre Vinokourov.

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