Gianni Savio, the manager of the Italian Androni Giocattoli team, has promised he will fight to overturn the three-month ban issued by the Italian Cycling Federation after he was found guilty of violating rules for sponsorship and rider contracts.
Savio, Wilier Triestina team manager Angelo Citracca and Bardiani-CSF manager Bruno Reverberi were all cleared of wrongdoing in December, but the sentence was overturned on appeal for Savio and Citracca.
The disciplinary action was sparked by an investigation dubbed 'pagi e corri' – 'pay and ride' – carried out by Italian journalist Marco Bonarrigo for the prestigious Corriere della Sera newspaper. By speaking to several riders and witnesses, Bonarrigo lifted the lid on the financial deals that are widely suspected of occurring in the lower levels of Italian cycling. Elia Viviani, several agents and sponsors were key witness in the investigation.
Bonarrigo claimed that some riders were forced to give back part of their official salary via secret bank accounts and illegal agreements that left them unable to accept offers from bigger and better teams.
Savio has always denied any wrongdoing and threatened legal action against the riders who gave evidence in the investigation. However, the hearing also heard from sponsors and new testimony, which confirmed many of the accusations discovered by Bonarrigo.
Savio's Androni Giocattoli team has not been invited to next month's Giro d'Italia, but Savio is often at races with his team. The three-month ban would mean he would miss the middle part of the season and could not attend the Giro d'Italia even as a guest.
"I'm shocked and angry, but I take note of the sentence. But I'm going to appeal against it," Savio said in a statement from his Androni Giocattoli team.
"I want to repeat that I've never violated any rules – sporting or ethical/moral rules. Indeed there's no proof against my honesty in any of the procedural documents. In agreement with my lawyer Giuseppe Napoleone, we've decided to appeal the verdict to the Collegio di Garanzia del CONI (the high court of the Italian Olympic Committee)."
Savio was found guilty based on testimony related to the signing of Patrick Facchini. Savio claimed that he signed a sponsorship agreement with two sponsors for the 2013 season but agreed to sign the Italian rider after pressure from the sponsors and because Facchini had won several prestigious Italian amateur races.
The sponsors testified that they only agreed to the sponsorship to help Facchini race as a professional.