Ferrari convicted of sporting fraud

A Bologna court has given coaching guru Michele Ferrari an 11-month suspended sentence after finding

A Bologna court has given coaching guru Michele Ferrari an 11-month suspended sentence after finding
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE In what could be the most historically significant result of the weekend, more perhaps than any outcome of Sunday's world championship road race, the Italian coach Dr Michele Ferrari today received a suspended prison sentence of 11 months and 21 days after being convicted for "malpractice in distributing medicines" and "sporting fraud". Ferrari, known variously as 'the myth' and also as the performance consultant of six-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, learned his fate in Bologna at around 2.20pm on Friday. On exiting the courtroom, Ferrari's only comments were: "Of course I didn't expect this sentence, because I am convinced of my innocence in this whole affair." Ferrari's lawyer, Dario Bolognesi, vowed to appeal against judge Maurizio Passarini's verdict. Bolognesi also pointed out that Ferrari had been absolved of what the lawyer considered the "most serious" charge: distributing harmful medicines. Judge Passarini considered that this charge "wasn't sustainable." On Ferrari's dual conviction, Bolognesi argued that "the whole case is limited to interpretations of the [Italian] doping law, sporting fraud and the testimony of the cyclist, Filippo Simeoni." The controversial law governing sporting fraud, Bolognesi maintained, was designed to address "the phenomenon of corruption in sport, not doping." Whether this amounted to a tacit admission that Ferrari had advocated, or at least been an accessory to doping, Bolognesi did not specify. Having been discredited by Bolognesi in the lawyer's final summing up to the judge last week, Filippo Simeoni welcomed what he regarded as a just verdict today. Testifying in the spring of 2002, Simeoni told Passarini under oath that he had taken EPO and other illicit substances on Ferrari's advice. "On a human level, I'm sorry that Doctor Ferrari has been convicted, but this sentence shows that my testimony was reliable and that justice exists," said the Domina Vacanze rider, who is due to make his Italian national team dbut in Verona on Sunday. "I hated having my credibility doubted. Everyone knows what was going on [in the late 1990s], but no one said anything. Only I spoke out." Simeoni can also draw comfort the news that Florentine police investigating Lance Armstrong's actions in stages 18 and 20 of the Tour de France on Thursday asked Dmitri Fofonov and Juan Antonio Flecha for their version of events. Both riders were members of the breakaway from which Armstrong effectively barred Simeoni on stage 18 of the Tour. Paolo Bettini has successfully requested that his summons to testify be postponed until Monday, after the world road race in which the Italian starts among the favourites. "I am especially happy that my testimony turned out to be reliable after the bullying tactics I suffered at the hands of Armstrong and other riders," Simeoni concluded this afternoon.

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