After working with USADA, Padua investigators close in on Ferrari, riders

Italian investigator works hand-in-hand with U.S. anti-doping agents to close the trap on Michele Ferrari and an Italian drugs ring

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.

MILAN (VN) — Colorado Springs lacks a sister city in Europe and may want to consider Padua in Northeast Italy. The city hosts one of the oldest universities, where Galileo lectured, and is home of Benedetto Roberti, a major player in the Lance Armstrong doping investigation.

From its offices in Colorado Springs, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency reached out to Roberti for information regarding Armstrong. Specifically, the agency wanted to know about Armstrong’s dealings with the notorious sports doctor Michele Ferrari. It uncovered that Armstrong paid around $1 million to Ferrari through the years.

Roberti, a public prosecutor in Padua, first chased after Ferrari while helping the Food and Drug Administration investigation. In 2010, he met lead FDA’s lead investigator Jeff Novitzky in Lyon, France, to share Ferrari’s banking information. He also ordered raids of several cyclists’ homes ahead the 2011 Giro d’Italia, including those of Leonardo Bertagnolli, Michele Scarponi and Giovanni Visconti.

Roberti was available again this spring when USADA CEO Travis Tygart began investigating Armstrong in earnest. Roberti shared with Tygart his interrogation of Bertagnolli and information the Italy’s Anti-Narcotics Group gained from Volodymyr Bileka, both Ferrari clients.

“Mr. Bileka and Mr. Bertagnolli confirm Dr. Ferrari’s involvement in doping, including through advice regarding the use of EPO and blood doping, in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010,” read USADA’s “Reasoned Decision.” USADA used the information it obtained from Roberti, along with affidavits from American riders, to establish “Dr. Ferrari’s involvement in doping in each year relevant to the case involving Mr. Armstrong,” or between 1998 and 2010.

Roberti also opened his doors to a USADA-appointed lawyer, Marco Consonni. Last month, he allowed Consonni to look through his files on Ferrari and share them with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and abroad. Consonni testified that thanks to Roberti, he “found evidence of previous criminal proceedings related to potential violations of anti-doping rules committed by Dr. Ferrari.”

CONI fallout

Roberti interrogated Bertagnolli on May 18, 2011, when he admitted to doping with EPO and identified Ferrari’s involvement. However, USADA’s counterpart in Italy, the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), only found out with the rest of the world on Wednesday.

“Put bluntly,” wrote Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper Friday, “Roberti does not trust the [Italian cycling] federation or CONI enough.”

Federation President Renato Di Rocco said, “There’s an agreement of open-exchange between all the prosecutors in Italy and CONI, but it’s official now that Padua is not participating.”

It took the UCI to stop Bertagnolli. In June, it requested a disciplinary hearing after it discovered odd biological passport readings, which resulted in the 34-year-old announcing his retirement. The CONI prosecutor summoned Bertagnolli as a witness today in Rome, but Bertagnolli didn’t appear, making use of his right to remain silent.

Back in Padua, Roberti’s long-running case is believed to be coming to a close. He is said to be investigating 70 people, including 20 athletes, with Ferrari facing new criminal charges. Ferrari was cleared in 2006 of criminal charges accusing him of distributing doping products, but in 2002, CONI banned him from working with UCI-licensed cyclists in Italy.

Roberti raids have drawn in several riders. The list of potential targets in the investigation includes Bertagnolli (Lampre-ISD), Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD), Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack-Nissan), Visconti (Movistar), Scarponi (Lampre), Morris Possoni (Lampre), Diego Caccia (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia), Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha), Mikhail Ignatiev (Katusha), Vladimir Gusev (Katusha), Vladimir Karpets (Movistar), Evgeni Petrov (Astana), Denis Menchov (Katusha) and Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini).

Trending on Velo

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.