Italian newspaper Corriera della Sera has revealed more details from the infamous Mantova investigation that has already resulted in a two-year ban for Alessandro Ballan. The paper claims that Lampre sent its riders to Mantova to visit now banned pharmacist Guido Nigrelli for tests but also reports that Damiano Cunego was one of a few riders to say no to the treatment.
For several years, the Mantova investigation has been looming in the background, potentially threatening the careers of several former Lampre riders who have all been involved in the affair. Information have been scarce but two weeks ago Alessandro Ballan became the first victim of the case when he was handed a two-year ban for undergoing a blood transfusion, despite claiming that it was only a case of ozone therapy used to treat him for a cytomegalovirus.
Today Corriera della Sera have leaked more details from the case where 25 former riders and staff linked to Lampre are on trial. The paper claims that the man at the centre of the investigation, Mantova pharmacist Guido Nigrelli, was the right-hand man of Lampre manager Giuseppe Saronni.
Apparently, Saronni and the management sent riders to Mantova to visit Nigrelli for tests and for medicines and supplements. The investigation has uncovered a number of phone tabs with conversations between Nigrelli, riders, and sports directors Fabrizio Bontempi and Maurizio Piovani.
The paper reveals that a number of code words were used, including ciucciotti (dummies), uova (eggs), topogigi and culatello (cured ham), with one of them referring to Hygetropin, an expensive growth hormone. Reportedly, the judge ordered a specialist engineer to analyse 26 DVDs containing phone taps, video and other data collected by police as the local Veneto dialect used has caused disagreements about what is being said.
Medicines seized in the investigation will also be analyzed and the case will begin in earnest on October 31.
The paper reports that Saronni told riders in 2007 that the team would no longer pay for Nigrelli's services. Saronni has since stepped down from his position as manager, handing over the reins to Brent Copeland. He has also stepped down from his position as a board member of the company that manages the team but remains closely related to the Galbusera family whose Lampre company is the main sponsor.
18 riders of whom 15 rode for Lampre, are part of the trial, with the biggest names being Ballan, Damiano Cunego, Mauro Santambrogio, Simone Ponzi, and Michael Rasmussen. However, the paper reports that Cunego was reportedly one of only a few riders to say no to the treatments.
Like all involved riders, Cunego has denied any wrongdoing but has been tight-lipped regarding the case. He is still one of the Lampre leaders but Corriera della Sera reports that he could be one of the captains of the new Fernando Alonso team which will be created for the 2015 season and is reported to have already reached an agreement with Peter Sagan.
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