Danilo Di Luca’s assertion that 90 percent of the riders at the Giro d’Italia dope and that it is impossible to finish in the top ten without recourse to performance-enhancing drugs has been rejected by a number of his former colleagues in the professional peloton.
The interview with Di Luca is due to be broadcast on the satirical Italian current affairs show, Le Iene, on Wednesday evening, but an advance transcript of the interview has already been published by a number of Italian media outlets. Di Luca was handed a life ban by the Italian Olympic Committee in December of last year following the third doping sanction of his career.
Reigning Giro champion Vincenzo Nibali made his debut in the corsa rosa as part of the Liquigas team that had helped Di Luca to overall victory in 2007, and he dismissed his former leader’s comments when questioned by reporters at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina.
“For me, Danilo is at the end of his tether and he doesn’t know what to do anymore to earn a bit of loose change,” Nibali told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I’m sorry to say this because he was a great teammate, but now I can only think that he has become a bit brain-damaged.”
Nibali’s thoughts were echoed by Joaquim Rodriguez, who raced alongside Di Luca at Katusha in 2011. Rodriguez finished 5th in that year’s Giro before taking second place in 2012. “Danilo is talking like this now because we all know how he behaved throughout his career,” Rodriguez said, according to Tuttobici. “But I don’t want to add any more. Di Luca doesn’t deserve to be given the chance to make publicity for himself at our expense.”
Di Luca’s former LPR teammate Damiano Caruso, now at Cannondale, disputed the veracity of the comments, telling Gazzetta dello Sport that he believes that “today 99% of the peloton is clean.”
Luca Scinto was Danilo Di Luca's directeur sportif at Vini Fantini last year. He insists he did not know that Di Luca was taking EPO to prepare for the Giro d'Italia and tried to convince Vini Fantini not sign him. He claims he only agreed to take him in time for the Giro d'Italia to secure funding for the team.
"I don’t want to talk about Di Luca, he's an idiot," Scinto told Cyclingnews bluntly. "I was against hiring him and so was especially angry after what happened. What he and Santambrogio did last year nearly cost the jobs of 38 people on the team. Fortunately thanks to support from Neri Sottoli, we've managed to keep going, rebuild the team and secure an invitation to the Giro d'Italia. I don’t want to trawl back over the past and won't even watch the Di Luca interview on television, it'll just make me angry."
On Twitter, Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) was quick to react to Di Luca’s comments, writing, “I feel genuine hatred towards Di Luca. He's a worthless lying scumbag making false statements that hurt the sport I love.”
Talansky, who finished 10th at last year’s Tour de France, later wrote that he felt Di Luca’s statements were “delusional,” adding: “I wouldn't be in this sport if it was not possible to succeed at the highest level and do it clean.”
Talansky’s Garmin-Sharp directeur sportif Charly Wegelius was a teammate of Di Luca’s at Liquigas and an important part of his Giro-winning squad of 2007. In his autobiography, Domestique, which was published last year, Wegelius praised Di Luca’s qualities as a team leader, but was careful to highlight that the facts of his career spoke for themselves – namely, his positive tests for EPO in 2009 and 2013, and his suspension for his implication in the Oil for Drugs inquiry in 2007.
“He was a charismatic guy to ride for, but none of that puts into any doubt the mistakes that he made and the plain facts, like that he tested positive three times,” Wegelius told Cyclingnews on Wednesday. “I’m not an apologist for his misdemeanours.”
Like Talansky, Wegelius rejected Di Luca’s claim that 90 percent of the Giro peloton doped and his calls for doping to be legalised. “I don’t think there’s much more to say beyond that I don’t agree at all that that’s accurate. It’s far from accurate I think,” Wegelius said.
“The whole cycling community has taken really big strides towards facing this problem. I think those comments are so far from the truth that it’s just sad that they would be allowed to disrupt or distract from the positive work that’s been done. I don’t think that the comments of a guy like Danilo should be allowed to derail that.”
The Italian Olympic Committee has since summoned Di Luca to Rome on January 30 to discuss his allegations. In spite of the derision that has greeted the interview from within the peloton, Wegelius does not believe that Di Luca should automatically precluded from contributing to a solution to cycling’s ills - providing, of course, that he had a genuine wish to do so. Di Luca, after all, provided information to CONI that saw his 2009 ban reduced to 15 months, only to test positive again four years later.
“A kind of satirical programme in the evening in Italy probably isn’t the best place to solve those problems,” Wegelius said. “I wouldn’t exclude him being part of any kind of solution but it would have to be constructive and honest.”
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