Valentino Fois 1973-2008: Former Pantani team-mate found dead

Tragic end for 34-year-old who battled alcoholism

Those of you who have already received your April issue may have read the heart-rending story of Valentino Fois, the former alcoholic and team-mate of Marco Pantani who had recently embarked upon a comeback with the Amore e Vita team.

This morning, regrettably, that story already had a tragic postcript as police in Fois's hometown, Bergamo, announced that the 34-year-old had been found dead. An autopsy will tell us more in due course. For now all we know is that Fois appeared to have been struck by a sudden illness. He had apparently spent the night with friends in Bergamo and had only returned home at 4.30am. Earlier in the day Fois had trained with team-mate Ivan Quaranta.

Fois had spoken in recent months about how doping had acted as a conduit to what later became a full-blown drug and alcohol habit, but it would both premature and opportunistic to use attribute his demise to the wider problems of his sport. Fois was always known in the peloton as a fragile and deeply impressionable individual. In many ways, he was similar to Pantani, only with slightly less talent. I say slightly because Fois himself was no mean climber, good enough to win Italy's hardest and most mountainous amateur stage race, the Giro della Val d'Aosta.

It is more than likely that Fois, like Pantani, was killed by depression. Cocaine might have been il Pirata's ultimate poison, but his life was gradually squeezed out over several years, not obliterated by a few grams of powder. For years Fois had been suffering in the same way. In recent months he'd found some relief in books on Buddhism. He'd undergone successful treatment in a clinc for addiction and mental health problems. But it may all have been too little. The man who hoped that cycling might prove Fois's life raft, Amore e VIta boss Ivano Fanini, told me last month that, while making excellent progress, Fois was still clearly grappling with old demons.

It bears repeating: whatever that autopsy tells us, Fois's death should be seen as nothing more than the tragedy of a young man who'd spent years at odds with himself and his world. He never gave up, but sadly, this morning, after 34 and a half years, life gave up on Valentino Fois.   

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