Mother distressed at theft of Pantani yellow jersey

"It's my son's destiny to be unable to rest in peace"

One of several yellow jerseys worn by former Tour de France champion Marco Pantani has been stolen from a cycling salon in Milan, according to press reports Saturday.

Troubled champion Pantani, the 1998 winner of the epic race who courted doping controversy on several occasions during his career, died from a drugs overdose in a Rimini hotel in 2004.

Vittorio Savini, the president of one of Pantani's fans clubs, 'Magico Pantani', told La Gazzetta dello sport the theft took place between Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 November.

The deceased cyclist's mother, Tonina Belletti, told the newspaper: "It's my son's destiny to be unable to rest in peace, even when he's dead."

Nicknamed 'Il Pirata' (the pirate) because of his shaven head, goatee beard and penchant for wearing earrings and colourful bandanas, Pantani is still regarded as one of the most formidable cyclists of his generation, especially in the high mountains.

He is the last rider to have won the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France in the same year, in 1998 and still holds the record for the ascension of the Alpe d'Huez .

A year later he was thrown off the Giro after a blood test showed abnormal blood readings, heightening suspicions that he used blood-boosting performance enhancers. Pantani, however, never officially tested positive for banned drugs.

After that exclusion Pantani was never the same and struggled to make his way back to the peloton. In 2003 he signed himself into a clinic for treatment for depression.

An autopsy after his death in 2004 showed he died from a cocaine overdose.

© AFP 2010

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