Dr. Michele Ferrari has been found guilty of doping by an Italian appeal court, confirming a suspended jail sentence of 18 months that was reached in April.
Dr. Ferrari is famous for working with a number of big-name professional athletes, including Lance Armstrong. He was banned for life by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) for doping Armstrong and other riders from the US Postal Service team but has always denied any wrongdoing.
Dr. Ferrari was found guilty of doping in Bolzano in the spring after an investigation into his working with Italian biathlete Daniel Taschler, who was given a nine-month suspended sentence. Taschler's father Gottlieb - a former head of the International Biathlon Federation - was also given a one-year suspended sentence. Their sentences were also confirmed by the Bolzano appeal court.
It is the first time that Dr. Ferrari has been found guilty of doping in a penal court despite a long history of doping accusations going back to the early 1990s when the huge benefits of EPO were first discovered. Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported that Dr. Ferrari said he will appeal the sentence to Italy's Supreme Court. His only success was a reduction – from 12500 to 2500 Euros – in the civil damages the court ordered Dr. Ferrari to pay the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Police used phone taps to listen in on conversations between Dr. Ferrari and Taschler. Prosecuters believe they included instructions on how to take EPO and details of secret telephone numbers where Dr. Ferrari could be contacted. Taschler had pushed his son to work with Dr. Ferrari as a way to boost his athletic career.
This investigation was sparked by the Padua investigation which helped uncover financial payments from Armstrong to Dr. Ferrari and other evidence that was used to condemn the Texan. It was moved to Bolzano because the first contact between Taschler and Dr. Ferrari is alleged to have occurred near the biathlete's home.
A criminal offence since 2000
Dr. Ferrari was found guilty of sporting fraud and illegally working as a pharmacist in 2006 after key testimony from former rider Filippo Simeoni. He was eventually cleared on appeal of the latter charge, while the statute of limitations and the slow legal process in Italy allowed him to avoid the case reaching a final verdict.
Doping has been a crime in Italy in since 2000, making it far easier for prosecutors to pursue doctors and athletes who dope.
Dr. Ferrari is infamous for comparing EPO to orange juice in 1994 when he worked with the Gewiss team that dominated racing at the time.
"EPO is not dangerous, it's the abuse that is. It's also dangerous to drink 10 litres of orange juice," he reportedly told l'Equipe and other European media.
Dr. Ferrari still runs a personal coaching business but in November 2015 he claimed he had retired from coaching professional athletes when speaking to Italian journalist Marco Bonarrigo of the Corriere della Sera newspaper.
He tried to block the showing of 'The Program' in Italy - the movie that told the story of David Walsh's pursuit of Lance Armstrong. A scene portrayed Dr. Ferrari injecting EPO but he claimed it was not true.
"I've retired and I'm not interested in coaching anymore," Dr. Ferrari told Bonarrigo at the time. "They still go fast, even without me: you saw the Tour de France didn't you?"