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Filippo Simeoni Vindicated but Bitter
 
By Podofdonny
Date: 2/12/2005
Filippo Simeoni Vindicated but Bitter
 

Filippo Simeoni, who was a witness for the prosecution in the case against the Italian doctor Michele Ferrari, comes out well in the judge's summary of the case that was published in January this year. The 33 year old rider had alleged that Doctor Ferrari had prescribed EPO to him and an anabolic (Andriol) between 1996 and 1997. He had also given a series of names and data which had been used in the investigation.

So was Simeoni a “liar” as some of the peloton had declared?

Not so, according to the judge, who commented, "None the arguments used by the defence of Ferrari is likely to undermine the credibility of Simeoni, whose declarations, on the contrary, are consolidated by a series of other elements collected during the lawsuit."


Filippo Simeoni at Stage 3 of the 2004 Tour de France. Photo by Cyclingpictures.de.

On 1st October 2004, Doctor Ferrari had been given a one year suspended year jail sentence and a fine of 900 euros.

On Monday January 18 2005, Filippo Simeoni, upon hearing the judge's reasoning, told the Italian Sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport: “I feel vindicated. It shows that I had told the truth about a phenomenon that everyone knew about, but that nobody denounced."

Doctor Ferrari’s highest profile client, 6-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, was at no time mentioned in the trial. As he had always maintained, he severed links with Ferrari immediately after the guilty verdict was announced, but also expressed his personal disappointment.

However, Armstrong had allegedly called Simeoni an "absolute liar" in an interview with the Le Monde newspaper and on Italian TV in 2003, a matter for which Simeoni is seeking €100,000 (£71,000) in damages which he claims he will give to charity.

Armstrong’s most visible support for his former trainer came in the 2004 Tour de France when he chased after Simeoni in the break to Lons le Saunier, on Stage 18. In an “unprecedented move” by the yellow jersey, Armstrong personally brought him back to the peloton. (The US Postal Service Cycling Team site has a series of Graham Watson photos on that encounter here.)

However, the Italian authorities asked the Italian National Drug Squad (NAS) to investigate the incident in order to establish whether Armstrong's actions were in fact intimidating a witness of the then-ongoing trial. Simeoni, Kazakh rider Dimitry Fofonov, Spain’s Juan Antonio Flecha and Dutchman Marc Lotz, who were all part of the breakaway, and Paolo Bettini, have already been interviewed by the authorities to give their version of the events.

At the same time the Italian Cycling Federation issued a statement in defence of Simeoni, condemning Armstrong’s actions.

The question remains whether Armstrong will be questioned about his actions by the Italian authorities should he return to Italy. The USA newspaper The Houston Chronicle reports that Armstrong remains upbeat about the situation when they reported an interview with PBS' Charlie Rose at the Texas Children's Hospital gala a month ago in Houston:

...he will remain in Texas through the end of February, then join up with his Discovery Channel teammates for the eight-day Paris-Nice race March 6-13.

After Paris-Nice, he might participate in the one-day dash from Milan to San Remo on March 19, although he insists his disinclination has nothing to do with the murky legal inquiry that was launched by the Italian authorities regarding his alleged "intimidation" of Filippo Simeoni late in the 2004 Tour.

Simeoni served as a prosecution's witness in the drug trial of Italian sports physician Dr. Michele Ferrari, with whom Armstrong has had a professional relationship. Armstrong accused Simeoni of lying about Ferrari and Simeoni has sued Armstrong for libel. At any rate, when Simeoni broke from the pack one afternoon, Armstrong reeled him in, not a typical tactic by someone protecting the yellow jersey.

"How can you commit a crime by riding your bicycle?" Armstrong said. "It's crazy. If they want to ask me some questions, I'll be happy to answer them. But the truth is (Milan-San Remo) isn't my kind of race. Fifty guys in a flat 70-mile sprint. That's not my thing."

Meanwhile, Simeoni will not ride in the ProTour this year, since he will ride for the professional team Naturino-Sapore di Mare. Now vindicated, he is still clearly bitter about the events in general, and Armstrong and Cipollini (who had tried to stop him racing in the 2004 Tour) in particular.

"During the last six years, Armstrong has always supported Ferrari and maintained his innocence, people will draw their own conclusions from that."

"Nothing has hurt me more than the eagerness of champions like Lance Armstrong or Mario Cipollini who would have stopped me from cycling. If I am still here, it is because I love the sport."

Sources: Le Monde, Gazzetta dello Sport, Houston Chronicle.

Links: Rebel with a Cause


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