Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport has reported that a new doping investigation by Italian police in Mantova could involve 54 people relating to events in 2008 and 2009 seasons. The paper compares the investigation to the 1998 Festina affair, the blitz by police at the 2001 Giro d’Italia and the Operacion Puerto investigation in Spain.
According to Gazzetta, the investigation is based around the small town of Mariana Mantovana, in centre of northern Italy. The paper specifically names Guido Nigrelli, a cycling coach and horse trainer, who has often worked with Lampre riders and has a long-term working relationship with team manager Giuseppe Saronni. Negrelli was listed as a coach of the Mapei-Bricobì team Saronni managed in 1998. According to Gazzetta, he was involved in a 2001 investigation into the supply of blood diluting drug Emagel. He was also named as one of the 52 people investigated after the police raids at the 2001 Giro d’Italia in San Remo.
The Italian newspaper suggests the investigation could also be linked to the Humanplasma lab in Vienna, Austria, that was investigated for blood doping after Gerolsteiner rider Bernhard Kohl tested positive for CERA at the 2008 Tour de France. However Humanplasma director Lothar Baumgartner told the APA news agency that he had never heard of Mariana Montavana “and I don't know anything”.
Petacchi's homes searched for five hours
In a separate article, Gazzetta dello Sport also reported that the search of Alessandro Petacchi’s home and two properties owned by his wife lasted five hours. “The document they left me says nothing was found. But even when you’re not worried, it’s not something you expect to happen,” Petacchi told Gazzetta dello Sport.
Various drugs were reportedly seized in Bernucci's home, including Albumine that can be used to dilute blood and Sibutramine, the same weight loss drug that sparked Bernucci’s positive test in 2007 when he rode for the T-Mobile team. Bernucci claims the medicines were for his brother and wife.
The Lampre team confirmed to Cyclingnews that Bernucci had been suspended until they receive further information about the police search. The team is expected to issue a statement about the Mantova investigation and the Gazzetta dello Sport revelations this afternoon.