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By VeloNews Interactive wire services, copyright AFP2002
Italian cyclist Gianluca Bortolami is set to appear as a witness on Tuesday when the trial of alleged doping mastermind Doctor Michele Ferrari resumes in Bologna.
In evidence already submitted to investigating magistrates Bortolami, the 1994 World Cup winner and last year’s Tour of Flanders champion, blames former Festina soigneur Willy Voet for the discovery of vials of EPO found in his possession. Voet’s 1998 arrest was the trigger for the now-infamous Festina affair that nearly resulted in the cancellation of the Tour de France that year.
Prosecutors, however, point to Ferrari’s medical records in which the state maintains that a simple asterisk was a code for EPO. If correct, the records would then suggest that Bortolami used the drug extensively.
Bortolami has insisted all along that the EPO found in his fridge during a 1999 police raid was in fact given to him by Voet before the 1998 Tour although he did not compete in the race that year because of illness. But prosecutors will try and use the medical records they have found to link Ferrari with the EPO which Bortolami insists he never took although he admitted to an error of judgment in keeping it in his fridge for a year.
“I was negligent, I admit it,” the rider said in his interview with investigators who pointed out that one of the two vials found in the refrigerator seemed to be half-empty. But the rider insisted he had taken no EPO. Bortolami also insists that the asterisks refer only to a proposed use of EPO by Ferrari and that he had never actually taken the substance.
Ferrari is contesting charges that he knowingly administered illegal substances to riders.