Phone taps admissable as evidence in Lampre trial

Phone taps will be admissible as evidence in the Lampre doping trial, which began in Mantova on Tuesday and will resume on January 24. According to the Gazzetta di Mantova, Judge Giuditta Silvestrini said that she will allow all documentary evidence from the prosecution and defence, including recordings of phone conversations in which figures linked to the team reportedly discuss doping practices.

28 riders, trainers, pharmacists and doctors, including Alessandro Ballan, Damiano Cunego and Giuseppe Saronni, have been called to trial following a longstanding inquiry, centred around the activities of Mariana Mantovana-based pharmacist Guido Nigrelli and his links to the Lampre team in 2008 and 2009.

Nigrelli, physical trainer Sergio Gelati, Roberto Messina, former Lampre rider Paolo Bossoni and former amateur rider Sebastian Gilmozzi are accused of trafficking doping products, while Lampre manager Saronni, directeurs sportifs Maurizio Piovani and Fabrizio Bontempi, and former rider Mariano Piccoli are accused of procuring doping products.

Finally, past and current riders including Ballan, Cunego, Michael Rasmussen, Mauro Santambrogio, Marco Bandiera, Pietro Caucchioli, Marzio Bruseghin, Marco Bandiera, Daniele Pietropolli, Emanuele Mori, Massimiliano Mori and Mauro Da Dalto stand accused of using doping products.

Former Lampre rider Emanuele Bindi has already pleaded guilty, receiving a one-year suspended sentence, and it is understood that he will be a key witness for the prosecution, which is led by Antonino Condorelli. Gazzetta dello Sport reports that some 250 witnesses will be called by the prosecution.

The prosecution’s case also includes a series of phone taps carried out in 2008 and 2009, some of which were leaked in the Italian press during the inquiry. Many of the recorded phone conversations are reported to have been in local dialect rather than standard Italian, meaning that deciphering the precise wording has been a laborious task.

One transcription reported by Gazzetta dello Sport suggested that Alessandro Ballan underwent a blood transfusion in the spring of 2009, although the former world champion has since claimed that he had undergone ozone therapy to treat the cytomegalovirus.

A 167-page analysis of the amassed evidence, compiled by anti-doping expert Dr. Sandro Donati on behalf of prosecutors, is also reported to include the allegation that Cunego used EPO and other prohibited products, an accusation the former Giro d’Italia winner has dismissed as “nonsense.”

The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) has entered into a civil lawsuit against the accused in the Mantova trial, seeking compensation of €1 million for damage to the image of Italian sport. CONI;s anti-doping tribunal has already requested a two-year sporting ban for Ballan, with a verdict due in January.

In spite of the fact that its general manager Giuseppe Saronni is among those standing trial in the Mantova doping investigation, the Lampre-Merida team was confirmed as a 2014 WorldTour team by the UCI on Tuesday.

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