An Italian parliamentary commission has said that there may be substance behind long-standing rumours that Marco Pantani’s disqualification from the 1999 Giro d’Italia and his death five years later in a hotel room may indeed be linked to organised crime.
Pantani, who in 1998 was the last man to win the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia in the same season, was found dead in the apartment hotel where he was staying in Rimini, Emilia Romagna, on St Valentine’s Day 2004.
Officially, his cause of death at the age of 34 was given as acute cocaine poisoning .
However, whether that resulted from a self-administered overdose, or his being forced to take the drug by persons unknown, has been the subject of wild speculation in Italy – a country in which a conspiracy theory lurks around every corner – and beyond for almost two decades now.
While some experts, such as the broadcaster and author Matt Rendell, in his biography of the rider insist that there was nothing untoward behind his death, rumours that members of the Naples-based organised crime syndicate collectively known as La Camorra, were ultimately behind it persist.
According to the 1999 autobiography of one Renato Vallanzasca – a senior figure in the Camorra now serving a life jail term for crimes including murder and extortion – another prisoner told him that the blood test that led to Pantani’s exclusion from the Giro d’Italia in 1999 just as he was poised to retain his title following a stunning win at Madonna del Campiglio was engineered by the crime syndicate, which stood to lose vast amounts of money in illegal bets on the race.
Now, the Italian parliamentary Antimafia commission says that there may be some substance to those rumours.
Senator Giovanni Endrizzi, delivering its report, said: “Rumours that the Mafia may have infiltrated the Giro d’Italia remain an open theory that we have not closed, and we can’t discount it either.”
The commission’s report will be sent to the Procura in Rimini, which continues to investigate the circumstances around Pantani’s death nearly two decades on, the Grand Tour winner’s family insisting that there was something suspicious behind it.
“The facts of which we have been informed,” continued the senator, “are not enough neither to explain neither the disqualifaction from the Giro d’Italia, nor the circumstances that led to his death.”
Florenzo Alessi, the Pantani family’s lawyer, said that it was disturbing that Senator Endrizzi’s report found that avenues of investigation related to the possibility that third parties may have been innvolved in Pantani’s death were “disturbing.”
The late cyclist will be commemorated tomorrow in the annual Memorial Pantani race from Forli to his home town of Cesenatico.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.