BOLOGNA (Italy): Italian sports doctor Michele Ferrari, who has worked with several top cyclists including six-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, was given a 12-month suspended jail sentence for malpractice by a court here, legal sources said on Friday.
However Ferrari, the former doctor of several cycling teams – most notably Gewiss in the mid 1990s – was acquitted of distributing doping products which could endanger health.
Later in the day, Armstrong said in a statement that he and the US Postal team had suspended links with Ferrari while they waited for court proceedings to run their course.
Just 10 days ago, Italian prosecutor Lorenzo Gestri had recommended a 14-month prison sentence for Ferrari for administering performance-enhancing substances to cyclists.
On leaving the court, Ferrari, who used to work under notorious Italian sports doctor Francesco Conconi, said: “I certainly did not expect this sentence because I am innocent of this whole affair.”
Ferrari's lawyer Dario Bolognesi said they would appeal, and emphasised that his client had been acquitted of the most serious charge of distributing doping products.
“We will appeal. The most serious accusation has gone and the whole trial is linked to the interpretation of standards in doping and sporting fraud, and to the comments of rider Filippo Simeoni,” Bolognesi said.
Armstrong said in a statement: “I was disappointed to learn of the Italian court's judgment against Dr. Michele Ferrari.
“Dr. Ferrari has been a long-time friend and trusted adviser to me and the USPS team, during which time he never suggested, prescribed or provided me with any performance-enhancing drugs.
“I was pleased to hear that Dr. Ferrari was acquitted of the charge of providing illegal drugs to athletes. I am not surprised by that verdict.
“However, I have always said that I have zero tolerance for anyone convicted of using or facilitating the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Armstrong made public in 2001 that he had been working with the notorious Ferrari, who once famously said that taking EPO was as harmful as drinking orange juice.
Ferrari was the doctor with the Gewiss team in 1994 when three of the team's riders took all the podium places in the tough Belgian one-day classic.
After Ferrari later revealed the secret of his team's success he was sacked, but he continued having contact with several top athletes over the years, including history-making Armstrong. – AFP