Italian doping investigator speaks out at award ceremony

The peloton makes its way from Saint Avé to Fouesnant.

The peloton makes its way from Saint Avé to Fouesnant. (Image credit: Fabrice Lambert)

Italian investigating magistrate Benedetto Roberti has spoken about the problem of doping in cycling while collecting an award for his detailed investigative work in Padova.

Roberti collected the Premio Bardelli for “the fight against doping and the teaching of sporting ethics” along with Cosimo Fabrizio and Renzo Ferrante of the NAS drug squad and Luigino Lambranzi of the Italian tax office. Roberti is a keen sportif rider and admitted that his love for cycling gives him extra motivation to carry out his work.

“I’ll speak about doping in general because I’ll never say the name of people under investigation to the media,” he told Marco Bonarrigo of Gazzetta dello Sport.

“I love cycling and put this love for the sport into everything I do during my investigations. There are directeurs sportif, doctors and coaches that have built a huge business on the back of the riders. I’ve seen some frightening things done to amateur and young riders without them blinking an eye: from EPO to GH and masking agents that are often out of date or contaminated.”

Roberti has led many of the recent doping investigation in Italy into riders such as Emanuele Sella, Davide Rebellin and Danilo Di Luca. He is believed to be playing a key role in the investigation into Dr Michele Ferrari as part of the US-lead investigation into Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service team. Dr Ferrari has recently offered to speak to the judge as the details of the investigation emerged in the media.

Roberti highlighted how he is going after those who make huge sums of money from doping rather than just the riders.

“One of the many people that have been interviewed in Padova was a real champion rider who had excited huge crowd with his riding,” Roberti said.

“But then after two hours of questioning and full confession, he started to cry and couldn’t stop: he’d realised the abyss he’d fallen into. He was a victim of the system, a person who was suffering but who deserved respect and help. Especially because he’d have to pay a high price, while those who had doped him, probably not.”

Roberti used his moment in the spotlight to call for the Italian anti-doping law to be strengthened so he can better fight blood doping.

“We’ve got one of the few good anti-doping laws in the world but it’s designed for drugs and so ties our hands when it comes to transfusions,” he revealed.

“We saw a famous doctor giving an illegal transfusion in his studio and wanted to arrest him but Law 376 only allows a maximum sentence of three years and we couldn’t get permission to arrest him or even seize his equipment. It ended the rider’s career but the doctor was able to continue carrying out transfusions the very next day. The sentences have to be increased and include time in prison or nothing will change.”

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Stephen Farrand
Head of News

Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.