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Rebel with a Cause?
 
By Podofdonny
Date: 7/27/2004
Rebel with a Cause?
 

Pippo Simeoni first drew caught the headlines when, as he was about to win stage 18 of the Vuelta Espana 2001 he decided to offer his own tribute to the victims of 9/11 by walking across the line with his bike held aloft. But as well as wanting to show his respects to the attacks' victims, the Italian also had personal demons to exorcise.

He had become known for his revelations to a judge in 1998 - which were then published in a European edition of GQ magazine - admitting taking dope as an amateur and then following a doping programme under the guidance of Dr. Michele Ferrari. Simeoni broke the relationship off when he felt he wasn't getting the results or the attention from Ferrari that he was expecting. These allegations led to him being questioned by the Italian police investigating Ferrari, and ultimately would lead to the sad sight of a US Postal rider spitting at him on the last stage of the Tour de France 2004. However, back in September 2001, and knowing that he would soon face suspension for admitting to dopage, he gave a quite astonishing post-stage interview in his strong Latian accent; since although born in Desio (next to Milan, in the famous Brianza area which gave birth to many pros - Frigo, Tonetti Saronni, Bugno etc.) on August, 18, 1971, he had moved to Sezze, in the Latium region, where he currently lives.

"I decided to do this some time ago," he said of his celebration. "It was a way of showing my love and hate for the sport. I hate it because of the huge fatigue it produces in me, and love it because of all that cycling has given me. It was also a way of relieving myself of all the tension accumulated over the past few months as a result of sporting and non-sporting pressures."

This was not the usual cliché-ridden post-win interview, and there was more to come: "I'm a thinker and I wanted to make people think again about the sport. I wanted to say that sport is an ideal activity for helping young people mature in life… The gesture of raising my bike above my head was also meant as a protest against the terrorists attacks in New York. Sport has to make peace gestures like this. We've had enough of war. Cyclists shouldn't have to feel distant from events that happen away from racing. I know a lot of cyclists who feel the same way that I do, but they don't say anything because the opportunity doesn't present itself. The important thing is that people understand that sport is a healthy thing to do."

However on the 15th of October 2001, Simeoni did pay the price for his "dopage" and the Cantina Tollo-Acqua & Sapone rider was suspended by CONI for 6 months. He was accused of violating the Italian anti-doping laws in the case "Ferrara."

After 18 months of protracted court procedure, Michele Ferrari, one of cycling's most controversial trainers, took the stand on April 17th 2003 to present his case against charges that he supplied professional cyclists with banned drugs. Ferrari's defence was two pronged; he presented a huge amount of technical information and also argued that his accusers were in league against him.

The most dramatic moment in the five-hour hearing in Bologna's criminal court came when Ferrari was asked by the judge Maurizio Passerini - why his former client Filippo Simeoni had stated that he offered him the blood booster erythropoietin (EPO) and Andriol, a testosterone preparation. "Simeoni was caught red-handed and lied to get a lighter ban. Simeoni is a damned liar, he even lied to me," said Ferrari and he added that Simeoni and two other cyclists were “in a league" against him. Ferrari also claimed that Simeoni had conspired with Italy's principal anti-drug campaigner Sandro Donati, although Donati denied ever having spoken to Simeoni. The prosecution's case is the allegation that the blood-thickness levels of Ferrari's clients varied from winter to summer, coinciding with major races, indicating the possible use of EPO.

Ferrari explained that some of his best clients, such as the 1994 World Cup winner Gianluca Bortolami and the double Giro d'Italia winner Ivan Gotti had unhealthily high blood iron levels, and he had advised them to donate blood in the winter to reduce the iron content at a time when it would not affect their performance.

Ferrari went on to explain the banned drugs he had been linked with. Ferrari said that the youth hormone DHEA was for his father’s rheumatism. The iron supplements were for his mother in law and that Androstene, a testosterone booster, was connected to his studies on impotence.

Although after the case Lance Armstrong said that if Ferrari were found guilty he would cease working with him, both on Italian TV and in the French Newspaper Le Monde in the weeks before the Tour de France 2003 he strongly backed his coach.

In response to this, Filippo Simeoni, lodged a charge of defamation against Lance Armstrong with courts in Paris and Italy. He alleges the American called him an "absolute liar" in an interview with the Le Monde newspaper after Simeoni gave evidence in the doping trial of the sports doctor Michele Ferrari. "We have to respond in court," he said. He is seeking €100,000 (£71,000) in damages.

"It's not a question of money. If I'm awarded money, I'll give it to charity," said Simeoni .

Simeoni meanwhile said he is glad to have turned his back on doping. "By speaking out, it's cleared my conscience, but don't believe that it's easy to admit to a judge, to spit it out to your friends and your parents that you've taken certain substances."

"I was ashamed, my parents were ashamed and I was on the brink of depression. I was scared of everyone, what they would say. But the thing that did me the most damage was the attitude of Armstrong," added Simeoni, referring to Armstrong's appearance on Italian television. Simeoni said he admires Armstrong, and would never accuse him of anything personally, but wants "him to publicly recognise his mistake."

Meanwhile cycling continued as normal .On the 18th of June 2003 Gianluca Bortolami, one of riders named in the trial earlier that year, was found positive for Kenacort (from the corticoide family) after the 2nd stage of the Driedaagse De Panne in April. His defence was a familiar one - he did not know how this product came into his urine. Another rider named in the trial, Ivan Gotti, a two-time Giro d'Italia winner who had retired from the sport, agreed to a five-month suspended jail term at a preliminary hearing. The case resulted from a police raid at the 2001 Giro, leading to the seizure of medicine and banned substances from the hotel rooms of several cyclists.

The Simeoni/Armstrong feud would have remained lost in the backwaters of the slow moving Italian legal system until finally the case came to court but for the extraordinary scenes which occurred in the closing stages of the Tour de France 2004. Armstrong, having dispatched his main rivals slightly earlier than expected, decided to flex his muscles against Simeoni who was trying to join the race winning break on stage 18.

The move shocked even staunch Armstrong supporters like Phil Ligget, who described the move as “sinister,” while the cycling historian, reporter and rider William Fotheringham accurately remarked that the move was “unprecedented for the maillot jaune to behave this way.”

Things only got worse on the final day. With a sense of passion for cycling that some of Armstrong’s more famous rivals would do well to note, Simeoni attacked, and attacked and attacked.

The organisers of the Tour de France ASO kept to their eternal policy of “no man is bigger than the Tour” and on the final stage gave Armstrong his sixth (and record) yellow jersey, and the combativity award to Simeoni. Whether Simeoni is a liar who lied to get a reduced ban or a rider who saw the error of his ways and has tried to come clean and speak out about dopage will be decided by the Italian legal system in due course. However, the sight of the maillot jaune and his team acting “like playground bullies” has only further tarnished cycling's battered image.

Lance Armstrong, a rider who rightly called spitting fans on the Alpe d’Huez “disgusting,” should remember that he and his team have an example to set. Sadly both he and his team fell far short of those expectations on the final days of the Tour.


Filippo Simeoni - Selected Palmares


Vuelta Espana 2003. Courtesy cyclingteam.net.

Professional since 1995

2004 - Domina Vacanze
1 - Stage 5 Vuelta a Austria
2 - Stage 4 Settimana Ciclistica Internazionale Coppi-Bartali
3 - Stage 1 Settimana Ciclista Lombarda
118 - Tour de France

2003 - Domina Vacanze
1 - Stage 19 Vuelta a España
2 - Florencia-Pistoia Ita
118 - Vuelta a España

2001- Cantina Tollo- Acqua e Sapone
1 - Stage 18 Vuelta España
5 - Semana Lombarda
6 - Luk-Cup
13 - Giro Ligure Ponente
24 - Tirreno-Adriatico
61 - Vuelta España

2000 - Amica Chips - Tacconi Sport
1 - GP Civitanova
1 - Stage 1 Tour of Luxembourg
1 - Regio Tour
1 - Stage 2 Regio Tour
2 - Trofeo Escaladores 1
3 - Coppa Agostoni Ita
4 - Coppa Placci
10 - Cto. Italia
10 - Giro Veneto
10 - Giro Lazio Ita
15 - Challenge Mallorca
104 - Giro Italia

1999 - Risso Scotti - Vinavil
90 - Giro Italia

1998 - Asics - CGA
3 - Giro Veneto
6 - Trofeo Escaladores 2
6 - Coppa Placci
10 - Giro Lazio
55 - Tour de France

1997 Asics - CGA
5 - Giro Trentino Ita 28/04/1997 Asi
15 - Vuelta Castilla y Leon
69 - Vuelta España

1996 Carrera 
6 - Tour of Poland
7 - Subida Urkiola
49 - Giro Italia

Lance Armstrong - Selected Palmares


Photo by Scott Schaffrick.

Professional since 1992

2004 - US Postal-Berry Floor
1 - Tour de France
1 - Stage 4 Volta Al Algarve
1 - Tour de Georgia
1 - Stage 3 Tour de Georgia
1 - Stage 4 Tour de Georgia
1 - Stage 5 Tour de Languedoc-Roussillon
1 - Stage 13 Tour de France
1 - Stage 15 Tour de France
3 - Criterium Internacional
4 - Dauphine Libere
5 - Volta Al Algarve
6 - Tour De Languedoc-Roussillon

2003 - US Postal-Berry Floor
1 - Dauphine Libere
1 - Stage 3 Dauphine Libere
1 - Tour de France
1 - Stage 15 Tour de France
6 - GP Karlsruher
8 - Amstel Gold Race
23 - Setmana Catalana

2002  - US Postal-Berry Floor
1 - GP Midi Libre
1 - Dauphine Libere
1 - Stage 6 Dauphine Libere
1 - Tour de France
1 - Stage 0 Tour de France
1 - Stage 11 Tour de France
1 - Stage 12 Tour de France
1 - Stage 19 Tour de France
2 - Criterium Internacional
3 - Campeonato Zurich (S)
4 - Amstel Gold Race
5 - GP Eddy Merckx
6 - GP San Francisco
8 - GP Karlsruher
13 - Copa Mundo

2001 -  US Postal-Berry Floor
1 - Vuelta Suisse
1 - Stage 1 Vuelta Suisse
1 - Stage 8 Vuelta Suisse
1 - Tour de France
1 - Stage 10 Tour de France
1 - Stage 11 Tour de France
1 - Stage 13 Tour de France
1 - Stage 18 Tour de France
2 - Amstel Gold Race
2 - Classic des Alpes
8 - Setmana Catalana
12 - Vuelta Aragon
20 - Bicicleta Vasca

2000 - US Postal-Berry Floor
1 - Stage 3 Dauphine Libere
1 - Tour de France
1 - Stage 19 Tour de France
1 - GP Eddy Merckx
1 - GP Nations
2 - Paris-Camembert
3 - Clasica Alpes
3 - Dauphine Libere
3 - Olympics ITT
4 - GP C. Argovia
5 - Campeonato Zurich
7 - GP Indurain
13 - Olympic RR

1999 - US Postal-Berry Floor
1 - Stage 4 Circuito La Sarthe
1 - Stage 0 Dauphine Libere
1 - Stage 4 Ruta Sur
1 - Tour de France
1 - Stage 0 Tour de France
1 - Stage 8 Tour de France
1 - Stage 9 Tour de France
1 - Stage 19 Tour de France
2 - Amstel Gold Race
7 - Vuelta Aragon
8 - Dauphine Libere
8 - GP Breitling

1998  - US Postal-Berry Floor
1 - Tour Luxembourg
1 - Stage 1 Sector 1 Tour Luxembourg
1 - Tour Rheinland-Pflaz
1 - Clasica Cascade
2 - Corestates Invitational
4 - Tour of Holland
4 - Vuelta España
4 - Mundial Cri
4 - Mundial Fondo
15 - Vuelta Andalucia

1996 - Motorola
1 - Fleche Wallone
1 - Tour Dupont
1 - Tour Dupont
1 - Stage 2 Tour Dupont
1 - Stage 2 Tour Dupont
1 - Stage 3 Sector 2 Tour Dupont
1 - Stage 3 Sector 2 Tour Dupont
1 - Stage 5 Tour Dupont
1 - Stage 5 Tour Dupont
1 - Stage 6 Tour Dupont
1 - Stage 6 Tour Dupont
1 - Stage 12 Tour Dupont
1 - Stage 12 Tour Dupont
2 - Paris-Nice
2 - Liege-Bastogne-Liege
2 - Tour of Holland
2 - GP Eddy Merckx
4 - Leeds Classic
4 - GP Suisse
4 - Memorial Josef Vogeli
6 - Olympic ITT
7 - General Copa Mundo
8 - GP E3 Harelbeke
9 - GP Telekom
11 - Milan-San Remo
12 - Olympic RR

 
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