Yesterday, we asked, "Should we be surprised? Will Cipo say it is not true or admit?" regarding reports in the Gazzetta dello Sport that Mario Cipollini was linked to Operation Puerto and his use of EPO, transfusions, and hormones.
Although Cipollini has not responded himself, his lawyer has said, "With this communication are categorically denied the unfounded and absurd accusations placed against my client. The documents published do not in any way refer to him. The fax number that appears on the incriminating table [the year planner], which according to the fanciful journalistic reconstruction is traceable to Mr Cipollini, is not a fax number but an Italian telephone number that does not belong to my client, and moreover is a handwritten annotation. In this regard it should be noted that until 2004 Mr Cipollini was resident in Monaco…
But there is more. In the fanciful article one reads that the presumed codename would be ‘Maria’ or ‘CP’. A very strange circumstance when one considers that other athletes implicated in Operacion Puerto were indicated, as is made evident in the same article, with a single pseudonym; ‘Brillo,’ ‘Piti,’ ‘Zapatero,’ “El Bufalo.’ Mario Cipollini even has two pseudonyms!
But the article omits to refer to the fact that already, on 24 August 2006, the newspaper La Reppubblica, published the news that the athlete in question [Cipollini] had the codename ‘Pavarotti.’ So, at this point there would be three pseudonyms strongly linked to the athlete. Mr Cipollini, as further evidence of his having nothing to do with the matter, makes himself available with immediate effect to whatever haematological verification against the 99 bags of blood still in possession of the Spanish authorities. In consideration of the above, I have received a broad mandate to safeguard the interests of my client in both civil and criminal courts.”
Today's Gazzetta dello Sport had this report about the "magic 2002" (the year in which Cipollini won the World Championship, Milan-Sanremo, Gent-Wevelgem, six stage wins in the Giro d'Italia, and three in the Vuelta a Espana):
"That season Mario Cipollini was racing for the Acqua &Sapone-Cantina Tollo team. A black and white zebra striped jersey. 3 ‘appointments’ on his cycling calendar: March 23, the Milano-Sanremo, which Cipollini had never won; April 10, the Gand-Wevelgem, the only Northern classic that sprinters have a chance of winning; October 13, the World Championships.
The instructions from Dr. Fuentes were clear, on the chart he wrote "Sanscrito", the code he had used before, hundreds of other times. Cipollini’s ‘doping regime’ was due to last from January 10 to January 24. From January 10 to January 21, who would have to take anabolic steroids, and then, every other day, 1000 units of EPO, an erythropoietin and the most commonly used doping in endurance sports. Back then, unannounced doping ‘spot checks’ did not take place. On January 18, following 1 week of ‘treatment’, he passed to taking 500 units of EPO, but still every other day, until February 3. The numbers written close to the instructions on the charts (52 and 50) appear to indicate the value of hematocrit.
From January 26 came a second phase of ‘treatment’ and more EPO: chorionic gonadotropin, a natural hormone (also found in women and produced during pregnancy) that people who use anabolic steroids take. The letters “HM” appear after the name Cipollini for the entire month of February: 1 dose every 2 days. Cipollini makes his season debut on February 13, at the Giro del Mediterraneo, in France. His doping with hormones continues and, on February 17, he’s instructed to take 2000 units of EPO. At the Vuelta Valenciana, on February 26, which is traditionally a short race and perfect preparation for sprinters, Cipollini switches to taking IGF: insulin-like growth factors – growth hormones. Every day until March 2, when the crucial note in Fuentes’s doping system appears: the letter "E" – the extraction of blood. That will then be ‘treated’, ‘cleaned’ and kept for ‘crucial moments’.
Fuentes indicates the most important races with three upward pointing arrows: for Cipollini, Sanremo and the World Championship. The Gand-Wevelgem, on April 10, is indicated with 2 arrows. Three days before the big spring race on March 12, ‘Cipo’ replaced his blood: nobody could compete with him in the sprint. The doping continued the week following Sanremo with a mixture of steroids and 2000 units of EPO per day for nine days up to April 2. On April 10 he won again: the Gent-Wevelgem. At the end of the Giro di Aragona in Spain he had another blood infusion to prepare for the Giro.
On July 15 in Florence he announced an unusual retreat that even left his teammates stunned, but he had already started a two-week course of anabolic steroids. On July 26 he replaced 2 bags of blood and initiated a week of taking growth hormones on alternative days. After that he introduced IGF into his regime, which encourages the growth of muscle fibres. On August 24 and August 25 he had two blood infusions and another treatment of IGF.
There were still 3 weeks to go before the World Championships, Cipollini pulled out of the Vuelta on September 14. The Vuelta started on September 7 and two days before that Cipollini had a re-infusion of blood and then during the race had a final dose of growth hormone. He broke off on September 14 when another blood sample was taken and he had another infusion He withdrew from the race at the 8th stage saying "I’m feeling at my best. I don’t want to ruin my fitness, which is already very good. I think I know myself well enough now. I know how best to prepare myself for races. And I know how to best train at home, especially as I’ve shown I can win again after 100 days away from cycling. There is still a month to go before the World Championships. I need to do a specific type of training for that race.”
The key to the eventual World Chamionship victory in Zolder for Cipollini were 3 bags of blood, each of 250ml from September 20 to September 24, he had a sample of his blood taken out of his system and, over the same period of time, put a bag of ‘clean’ blood back in. In a chart, Fuentes states exactly how much time the procedure would need to take effect.
It appears that during the week of the World Championships Cipollini put another bag of ‘manipulated’ blood into his system: probably on October 9, at Salice Terme, before leaving for Belgium, but after the tests carried out by the Italian Cycling Federation, which were scheduled for 7 in the morning. The race itself was to take place on October 13. Once again, Fuentes instructed the rider, via a chart, on the optimum time schedule: from October 8 to October 10. But October 9, a date that had been circled on the chart, is the date that is highlighted the most: too risky to bring the bags of blood to Belgium.
All for the World Championship jersey."
Note: At the center of the Operation Puerto trial are 206 bags of blood, discovered following raids in Madrid and found in the frifrerator of hematologist Merino Batres. 99 of the bags of blood still remain unidentified.
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