A Judge has ruled that phone taps will be admissible as evidence in the Lampre "doping" trial, which began yesterday in Mantova, Italy.
According to the Italian newspaper Gazzetta di Mantova, Judge Giuditta Silvestrini said she will allow all documentary evidence from the prosecution and defense, to include recordings of phone conversations.
A total of twenty eight members of the the Lampre team have been summons to trial, to include high profile riders Alessandro Ballan, Damiano Cunego and team manager Giuseppe Saronni. The trial follows a longstanding inquiry involving the Mariana Mantovana-based pharmacist Guido Nigrelli and his links to the Lampre team between 2008 and 2009.
Nigrelli, along with team trainers Sergio Gelati, Roberto Messina, former Lampre rider Paolo Bossoni and former amateur rider Sebastian Gilmozzi are all accused of trafficking illegal performance enhancing drugs. Meanwhile, Saronni, along with directeurs sportifs Maurizio Piovani and Fabrizio Bontempi, and former rider Mariano Piccoli have been accused of arranging for the procurement of said drugs.
Past and present riders, Ballan, Cunego, Michael Rasmussen, Mauro Santambrogio, Marco Bandiera, Pietro Caucchioli, Marzio Bruseghin, Marco Bandiera, Daniele Pietropolli, Emanuele Mori, Massimiliano Mori and Mauro Da Dalto all stand accused of using the PED"s.
Former Lampre rider Emanuele Bindi already pleaded guilty, and is receiving a one-year suspended sentence. Sources say, that he will be a key witness for the prosecution. According to Gazzetta dello Sport, an estimated 250 witnesses will be called by the prosecution – which is being led by Antonino Condorelli.
The investigation included a series of phone taps carried out between 2008 and 2009. Many of the recorded conversations are reported to have been in local dialect rather than standard Italian, which has involved the difficult task of deciphering the precise wording.
One such conversation is reported to involve Alessandro Ballan, wherein he discusses a blood transfusion in the spring of 2009. However, the Lampre rider has since claimed that the transfusion was part of an ozone treatment that he had undergone to help treat cytomegalovirus.
Based on the evidence, anti-doping expert, Dr. Sandro Donati, has submitted a 167-page report on behalf of the prosecution – that concludes Cunego used EPO, along with other prohibited sunstances. The former Giro d’Italia winner has since dismissed the allegations as “nonsense.”
The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) has entered into a civil lawsuit against the accused in the Mantova trial, seeking compensation of €1 million for "damaging the image" of the spor in Italy. CONI’s anti-doping tribunal has already requested a two-year ban for Ballan, with a verdict due in January.
Despite all of the legal controversy, the Lampre-Merida team was confirmed as a 2014 WorldTour team by the UCI yesterday.
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