An Italian prosecutor has reportedly uncovered a $465,000 payment made to Italian doctor Michele Ferrari by Lance Armstrong in 2006, Shane Stokes of VeloNews reports.
News of the payment was originally reported by La Gazetta dello Sport, an Italian publication, VeloNews says.
The payment has not been confirmed.
The doctor, Michele Ferrari, began working with Lance Armstrong prior to his being diagnosed with cancer in 1996. The relationship continued after Armstrong returned to cycling in 1998. Ferrari was later sanctioned by Italian sports authorities, leading many to question why Armstrong was still working with him.
The Italian prosecutor has reportedly uncovered payments totaling 30 million euros to Ferrari from more than 90 cyclists over the years. In recent years, Ferrari has reportedly attempted to conceal his involvement with these cyclists by using foreign cell-phones, a mobile camper-van, and intermediaries.
Last year, Lance Armstrong’s spokesperson admitted that Armstrong has maintained contact with Ferrari over the years, but also said that the professional relationship between the two ended in 2004.
The payment that the Italian authorities have reportedly uncovered was made in 2006.
This payment followed Lance Armstrong’s winning a court case with one of his sponsors which awarded him $7.5 million in bonus, penalties, and interest. The speculation is that a portion of this bonus was owed to Ferrari and that the payment was related to that.
(If that’s true, it is still possible that the professional relationship between Dr. Ferrari and Armstrong ended in 2004, as the spokesman said. The payment could merely have followed later. This makes sense given that Armstrong retired from racing in 2005.)
Lance Armstrong has never explained in detail what services or treatment Dr. Ferrari gave him, beyond vague references to a training regimen. Several other cyclists associated with Ferrari, such as Alexandre Vinokourov, have been tossed out of races for doping violations. Vinokourov, for example, called Ferrrari his “coach” prior to the 2007 Tour de France and was subsequently thrown out of the race for an illegal blood transfusion, VeloNews also reports.
This news is the latest in the Lance Armstrong saga, which returned to the headlines last week when the US Anti-Doping Agency filed formal doping charges against Armstrong. It has also just been revealed that several of Armstrong’s former teammates mysteriously withdrew their names from consideration for the US Olympic team, a decision that may be linked to the doping investigation.
There’s also more on the Italian investigation of Dr. Ferrari here >
NOTE: Almost everyone has strong feelings about the Armstrong case, both pro and con. Lance Armstrong’s supporters fiercely support him and don’t want to see his amazing accomplishments tarnished any more than they already have been (and, doped or not, the accomplishments are still amazing). They also point out that this is all very old news and that the country has better things to focus on. Others, meanwhile, simply want to know the truth. I’m in the latter camp. I followed Lance Armstrong’s Tour victories minute by minute, and those and his charitable work have always been hugely inspiring to me. Based on all that has come out about cycling in the past decade, I have come to assume that pretty much everyone in the sport doped and that you had to dope if you wanted to be competitive. Given this, I can certainly understand why Lance Armstrong would have doped, and if he did, I’m not going to get on some huge moral high horse about his “cheating.” (“Cheating” gives you an unfair advantage over the rest of the field. You don’t get that if everyone else in the field is doing the same thing.) If Lance Armstrong didn’t dope, meanwhile, and everyone else–including his teammates–did, his accomplishments are that much more staggering. And inasmuch as we’ve come this far, I want to know the truth.
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