AN INVESTIGATION INTO a sports doctor who helped orchestrate an elaborate doping programme for Lance Armstrong has opened a “Pandora’s box” of shady dealings worth millions, a report said today.
Michele Ferrari has already been banned for life by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) for his role in an extensive doping network that snared seven-times Tour de France champion Armstrong.
But today’s edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport said a probe, launched by Padua investigators in 2010, has also uncovered a world of shady business dealings and money laundering spread across several European countries.
Under the heading “The Ferrari System”, it said investigators had uncovered a system in which up to €30 million circulated thanks to the use of Swiss bank accounts and complicit individuals in key positions.
The report labelled it the “largest doping investigation in sports history”, dwarfing the “Operation Puerto” scandal from May 2006 when dozens of cyclists and athletes were implicated in a blood doping network run by a Madrid laboratory. Ferrari has recently denied helping Armstrong to dope, despite many testimonies citing the Italian in evidence against the American.
But according to Gazzetta, Ferrari faces several charges, including conspiracy to smuggle, distribute, administer and use performance-enhancing drugs, tax evasion and money laundering.
Ferrari’s son Stefano, the sports agent Raimondo Scimone, two bank managers from Lucerne and Neuchatel, and a Swiss lawyer, Rocco Taminelli — ho regularly took up the defence of riders charged with doping offences — face similar charges, according to the report.
Padua investigators are expected to wrap up their case at the end of the month, the newspaper added. If found guilty, Ferrari is likely to face criminal charges. Investigators discovered that Ferrari and his collaborators provided an “all inclusive package” to top athletes and cyclists, it added.
Upon the signing of contracts they were offered a training/doping programme, information on how to cheat the anti-doping system and the services of a lawyer in the event of a positive test.
Dozens of athletes were reportedly implicated and sometimes entire cycling teams. The “Ferrari System” also allowed athletes and teams to beat the financial regulators and the sports authorities, the report said.
Ferrari reportedly used a Neuchatel bank account, where he knew the director, to help launder the proceeds of his crimes he had amassed in Italy. The sports agent Scimone is alleged, thanks to his links with a bank director in Lucerne, to have aided a number of top cyclists to avoid paying taxes through the transfer of monies through different bank accounts.