Monday, 18 June 2012

A Face To The Name: Dr Michele Ferrari


Those new to professional cycling may be looking at the latest Armstrong debacle with a little confusion. Is this our sport? A secretive world of dodgy deals, 'training plans' and needles? A host of shady characters who's names read like a roll call of Poirot villains bound together by a Mafia like 'Omerta'? As unrealistic as it sounds, its not quite as far from the truth as the current crop of top brass at the UCI would like you to believe. With each new doping scandal come a few common connections, none more prominent than the shady character that is: Dr Michele Ferrari. His name crops up everywhere, but just who is Dr Ferrari?

Put simply, Michele Ferrari is an Italian doctor turned cycling coach who's early project was guiding Francesco Moser to the World Hour Record in 1984 (Beating Merckx) using pioneering methods including studies of Heart Rate during exercise and rest, and developing VAM.

The face behind the name
Ferrari though found his fame as Dr to a certain Lance Armstrong in the 90's helping him to several Tour de France victories and providing support to the US Postal team that got him there until around 2004. Ferrari was convicted of malpractice charges thanks in part to evidence given by Filippo Simeoni (Interesting Armstrong / Simeoni Story) who admitted to doping in several capacities from 1993 onwards with Ferrari advising him to do so and providing the means from 1996. This was later overturned in 2006 by Italian Courts citing 'lack of facts', though he now faces fresh charges from the USADA. 

It's less about Ferrari's convictions and more about his connections. There is a long list of cyclists that Ferrari has worked with, Armstrong of course but many others, some of which have spoken out about his 'training methods' and served bans for doping. Floyd Landis, The Lion King Cipollini, Simeoni, Vinokourov amongst others have worked with Ferrari and received punishment for doping.

Ferrari though, more worryingly, has worked with names like Cadel Evans, Levi Leipheimer, Claudio Chiappucci - very much still at the fore of cycling and competing. Of many of the big names Cadel Evans is often touted as being the cleanest of the clean and I hope this is true, but those who work or have worked with Ferrari run the risk of guilt by association.

The most recent of which is Pippo Pozzatto. Though he is under no formal investigation, recent speculation that he has worked with Ferrari has not been denied by the Pippo camp - here it's murky, as its against the Italian rules for any competing Italian rider to use the services of Ferrari - Pippo will now face the Italian Olympic Committee tomorrow to answer questions regarding his affairs with Ferrari. Inner Ring has more on the subject here.

Ferrari and Armstrong have again been linked in recent press, with reports that Armstrong paid almost half a Million dollars to Ferrari in 2006 for services unknown - allegations surfacing from an investigation by Padua prosecutor Benedetto Roberti which claims to involve over 90 cyclists with evidence taken from bank account analysis, email analysis and wiretaps. 90 cyclists is a huge number. Armstrong has previously admitted meeting with Ferrari around the time of his 2009 comeback, though not in a professional capacity.

Wherever Michele Ferrari's name appears there seems to be dirt. Questions should be raised as to why this 'Dr' is allowed to practice at all, let alone continue to work with athletes (which he does). There is a common belief that professional cycling is far cleaner now than it was in the mid 00's and I can only hope this to be true. Recent reports, investigations, the edginess surrounding those in and around the professional peloton though is proving to be quite a throw back to 'those days'. Its clear anybody associating with Ferrari now is walking on thin ice and its certainly a sad day in cycling when I feel the need to take to the blog to discuss Michele Ferrari, rather than the racing. Bury our heads in the sand, we cannot...

2 comments:

  1. Nice post , although a pity he is still such a figure that you need to be posting about him. Great pic to illustrate.

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