Riders refute, downplay Ferrari links in wake of doping reports

Several riders refute claims made in leaked Italian court documents, either denying or downplaying contacts with Dr. Michel Ferrari

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The shockwaves continued to bounce across the peloton Thursday following the leaking of Italian court documents that revealed more than three dozen riders were linked to controversial Michele Ferrari.

Some were quick to deny any involvement at all with the banned Italian prepatore, including Italian coach Paolo Slongo and Italian rider Marco Marcato. On Wednesday, Marcato said via his new team, Wanty Groupe, he never knew or met Ferrari.

“I never had any sort of connection with Dr. Ferrari. I never knew this man,” Marcato said via a team release. “I have never met him, and I have never talked to him. I want to defend my image … and I am available to the authorities to answer all questions and to prove my innocence on this matter.”

Two riders from Spain’s Movistar team were also quick to downplay their role in the growing scandal. José Joaquin Rojas and Giovanni Visconti, who has already served a three-month ban for links to Ferrari, both commented in the wake of Wednesday’s headlines.

Rojas commented via Twitter after Spanish daily AS revealed information taken from the court documents that Rojas, the 2011 Spanish national champion, exchanged e-mails with Ferrari’s son in 2010. There was also evidence of phone calls between Rojas and Ferrari dating back to 2007.

“I exchanged various e-mails with Stefano Ferrari [Michele’s son] about my training. Everything else are rumors without foundation,” Rojas wrote on Twitter. “It has nothing to do with my team. I hope and desire that we are not affected unfairly by this fallacy. Everything happened in 2010, when the mentioned person was not banned or charged.”

That’s not quite accurate, as Ferrari was already banned by CONI from working with athletes as early as 2002. AS also reported that Rojas could be open to prosecution by Italian authorities if he races in Spain, which is how his now-Movistar teammate Alejandro Valverde was eventually linked to the Operación Puerto doping scandal. Valverde later served a two-year ban.

Visconti, meanwhile, released a long public statement saying he felt betrayed by prosecutors after court documents were leaked to the media. Visconti cooperated with investigators about his alleged links to Ferrari and received a three-month ban as a result.

Visconti, who also races with Movistar, repeated that he never cheated, and suggested he would take legal action against Italian media that reported he had inconsistent blood levels that suggested he was doping.

“I repeat that my actions were always based on respect to the rules, and the high standards of clean sport,” Visconti said in a statement.

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