Following seven years of investigations, long pre-trial discussions and a formal trial, all the Lampre riders and team staff implicated in the Mantova doping trial have been cleared of any wrong doing. Only the local pharmacist at the centre of the case, Guido Nigrelli, and a local masters rider Sebastian Gilmozzi were given six-month suspended sentences, fines and ordered to pay the trial costs.
After just two hours of deliberations, the judge declared that all of the other 25 people on trial were cleared of any wrong doing or found not guilty due to a lack of evidence.
The public prosecutor Antonino Condorelli had admitted that in court that charges should be dropped against former Lampre team leader Damiano Cunego, Mauro Santambrogio, Mauro Da Dalto, Mirco Lorenzetto, Spanish doctor José Ibarguren, and Danish rider Michael Rasmussen (who confessed to doping in 2014). He also accepted that there was not enough evidence to prove a system of organised doping within the Lampre team.
On Friday morning the judge cleared all the other Lampre team members involved, including team manager and 1982 world champion Giuseppe Saronni, directeur sportifs and riders Alessandro Ballan, Marzio Bruseghin, Pietro Caucchioli, Simone Ponzi, Massimiliano Mori, Manuele Mori, Paolo Bossoni, Marco Bandiera plus former team coach Sergio Gelati.
Ballan has already served a sporting ban for an illegal blood transfusion as part of ozone treatment but has now been cleared of doping under Italian law. After being let go by the BMC team, he is trying to find a team for 2016.
The Mantova trial began in 2014 after long delays in the investigative and legal process. The investigation first began in 2008 and discovered that riders were ordered to work with Negrelli even if they lived hundreds of kilometres away. Much of the case was centred around phone taps in difficult to understand dialects. Italian police apparently spent over 100,000 Euro on translations as they tried to decipher code words and slang believed to describe different products as riders spoke to each other and to Negrelli. These included ciucciotti (dummies), uova (eggs), topogigi and culatello (cured ham).
The trial turned to farce when a substance in phials given to one of Negrelli clients was found to contain water and not testosterone as was suspected.
Italian trials are held with hearing spread across several months and an appeal is now unlikely, especially with the Italian law of limitations about to close the case for ever.
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