Italian doctor Luigi Cecchini has denied being the link between Mario Cipollini and numerous others big-name riders in Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes' blood doping ring.
Speaking exclusively to Cyclingnews at the gates of his villa on the outskirts of Lucca, Cecchini claimed he has not even studied riders' blood values since 1998. Cecchini is not mentioned in Gazzetta dello Sport's report on Cipollini's link to Dr. Fuentes but he is widely known to have worked with Cipollini.
"I've read what Gazzetta dello Sport has published about Mario Cipollini but I've nothing to do with him and Dr. Fuentes. I didn’t send Cipollini to Fuentes," Cecchini told Cyclingnews.
Cecchini is now in his seventies and claimed he has stopped working in cycling, preferring to fly his private plane in his spare time. He graduated as a sport doctor in his forties, and along with Dr. Michele Ferrari was one of the leading disciples of Professor Francesco Conconi.
He was closely linked to Giancarlo Ferretti and his Ariostea and Fassa Bortolo teams, before working with Bjarne Riis and many of the biggest names in professional cycling of the last 20 years. His known former clients include Jan Ullrich, Alessandro Petacchi, Thomas Dekker, Tyler Hamilton, Ivan Basso, Michele Bartoli, Max Sciandri, Fabian Cancellara and many more.
Cecchini successfully raced in age-related races in Tuscany and often went training with many of his riders. He tested their form on the Monte Serra climb that divides Pisa and Lucca. Many have defended Cecchini even after being caught for doping. Tyler Hamilton wrote in his book that Cecchini never gave him any EPO and warned him about working with Fuentes.
"I've done tests and prepared training programmes for lots of riders over the years, but I was never involved in doping them. Ask them and any other rider, they'll defend me. I was investigated by Italian police a long time ago but I was never put on trial. That must mean something," Cecchini told Cyclingnews.
He flatly denied that he must have known if his riders were doping or not.
"It's not that simple. Just because I coached them, it doesn't mean I could tell if they were doping, even with SRM data, or whatever. I never knew that riders might have been doping."
"My concience is clear. I know I didn’t do anything wrong, even if God is the final judge of if we lived honest lives."
Cecchini was not willing to say any more and refused the idea that he and other sports doctors who worked in the last two decades could play a vital role in helping clean up professional cycling. He suggested a special international police force is needed for that task.
"I'm old and probably only have five years to live. I love cycling like lots of people but I'm not interested in trying to help find a solution to the doping problem. It's not up to me," he said.
"I think all the police investigations have proved that the anti-doping controls don't work, that they're a waste of time and of huge amounts of money. I think we should use those millions to create a special international police force that can work to fight doping. That's the only real solution."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.