Filippo Simeoni has been forced to give up a key role in the Italian Cycling Federation due to the application of archaic regulations that stop anyone with a doping offence from taking office. Simeoni was famously bullied by Lance Armstrong during the 2004 Tour de France after testifying against Armstrong's coach Michele Ferrari.
Simeoni was banned in 2001 due to his confession and evidence in court during the trial of Dr Ferrari in Bologna. He went on to win the Italian national title in 2009 before retiring and was considered a role model in the way he spoke out against Armstrong's bullying. He has since organised local races and helped develop a successful youth team near his home in the Lazio region near Rome.
Simeoni was encouraged to stand for the role of vice president of the Lazio region in the Italian Cycling Federation regional elections. He won the vote and was ready to help his sport even further, only for someone to dig up the old rule in an attempt to discredit him.
The Italian Cycling Federation was unable to take into account that Simeoni's ban came due to a confession in court and that he helped to lift the lid on widespread doping in Italy and Dr Ferrari's links to Armstrong. They were obliged to apply the rule that Simeoni's election was invalid and award the position to the runner-up.
Simeoni's case has caused a storm in Italy, just a few days before federation's presidential elections, where incumbent president Renato di Rocco is facing a serious challenge from Norma Gimondi, the daughter of Tour de France and Giro d'Italia winner Felice Gimondi. The eventual winner could change the rule and cause new regional elections in Lazio, but it has left Simeoni saddened yet again.
"I was stunned to find out about the rule and the Federation's decision. I was actually on my way to the Federation headquarters for the inauguration ceremony and got a call, I had to return home," Simeoni told Cyclingnews.
"It seems I'm being made to paid for what I did all over again, despite paying a huge price after the clash with Lance. It's true I served a ban for doping, but everyone knows it was because I confessed in court and gave evidence in a historic trial that lifted the veil of omerta in Italian cycling. I think I paid my dues for doping more than 15 years ago. I was keen to put something back into the sport I'm passionate about, but now I feel angry and bitter."
Simeoni is refusing to resign from his role despite an official communique from the Italian Federation.
"I just want to know who dug up this rule to stop me. I'm hugely disappointed, but I hope the presidential elections will change things and spark a new election. I didn't give up even when Armstrong bullied me and so I'm not going to give this time either."
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