"It would be ridiculous for me to take this product and throw away in such a fashion all I have done so far. This product is not performance-enhancing in any way" That's what Stefano Garzelli said in a relatively brief press conference this morning.
Actually the substance in the tick of things is Probenecid, a diuretic, not on sale in many countries (including Italy, Switzerland and Belgium) used to threat goat, but also useful to mask banned substances, just like every diuretic. And according to reports a substance used even by Pedro Delgado during his successful 1988 Tour de France campaign. The stuff was not in the "black list" at the time, and the Spanish top-class rider was not sanctioned in any way.
Garzelli also said he was about to leave the race, but the Mapei team directors persuaded him to stay. He added that, should counter-analysis give the same results, he could leave not just the Tour of Italy, but even this sport. "I'm not serene at all. I just know I NEVER took this substance in my entire life. A bad joke ? I'm not thinking to anything in particular now, I don't know what happened. But if this is cycling, then I'd better try and find another job. My conscience is clear anyway".
The Mapei staff is somehow talking of a possible sabotage, also mentioning a few strange things happened first in the Cologne hotel where, according to what they said, more than one rider (and even staff members) had some "strange" health problems, and later during the following stage, when several Mapeis were forced to stop and urinate more than the "average number" of times. "Strange facts happened. And we want things to be clear. So we reserve the right to make a denunciation against unknown persons" said Team Administrator Aldo Sassi.
In the meantime two more Panaria riders abandoned the Giro, obviously due do doping-related matters. First it was Russia's' Faat Zakirov who, contrary to what said in previous reports, didn't wait for the counter-analyis results to come, and got out of competition after testing positive for NESP.
But this morning was time to say goodbye for another Panaria's Neapolitan: Filippo Perfetto, also a cousin of banned Giuliano Figueras, went home after being officially notified that he is under anti-doping investigation conducted by the Brescia prosecutor. His name is just the most recent addition to a list getting more crowded as time goes by, and already including Antonio Varriale ("Once I used to take performance-enhancing stuff, later I stopped, but I started again recently after a competition in Spain, as I realized I was racing against motorbikes. Everyone takes banned substances" he reportedly told investigators), Nicola Chesini, Domenico Romano (whose whereabouts still remain unknown) and dealer, former policeman, Armando Marzano, a man alreay involved in doping-related affair in the past, who is currently in jail in Santa Maria Capua Vetere.
The other Italian ridier that tested non-negative was Mercatone Uno's (another doping case involving that team !!) Roberto Sgambelluri who didn't drop out of the race anyway, guess as he's still waiting for the counter-analysis results to come.
Obviously all these doping-related events will affect the Fantasy Giro too. As rules clearly state that "Any rider who should fail an anti-doping test (or being excluded from the Giro because of doping-related reasons) DURING the race will immediately LOSE ALL of his POINTS in the Riders Ranking. (His TRADE Team will not be punished in the Trade Teams' Classification though)" all 57 virtual teams featuring Garzelli would lose all of their points if the rider were excluded from the race. But we have to wait until Tuesday at least, when the counter-analysis results are known and further decisione made.
If there's uncertainty about Garzelli's future both in the race and game, one thing is certain: due to the time-comsuming doping affair, requiring an extra-coverage, I was forced to delay the publication of the Virtual Team Results for stage 5. I apologize and promise they will be online later.