Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Dec 02, 2014 – Claims by a lawyer representing the family of deceased Marco Pantani that video evidence of the crime scene investigation has left more questions than answers have been rejected by the author of a new book into the Italian cycling hero.
“I have investigated this case since Pantani died 10 years ago, and although some questions remain unanswered, almost all of the claims suggesting he was a victim of homicide can be explained,” Andrea Rossini told AFP.
In his book — ‘Delitto Pantani — Ultimo Kilometro (Segreti e bugie) – The Pantani Crime – The Last Kilometre (Secrets and Lies) — Rossini counters almost every claim which suggests Pantani was a victim of foul play.
He added: “Pantani suffered tremendously in the final years of his life and I think avoiding the truth and speculating about his demise and death helps no one.”
However Italy, and the country’s obsession with Pantani, who in 1998 became only the seventh cyclist to win the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in the same year, has been gripped by the story into the man known as ‘Il Pirata’ (The Pirate).
Officially, Pantani died from a heart attack brought on by massive cocaine consumption at the Hotel Le Rose in Rimini on the night of February 14, 2004. An autopsy, of which AFP has obtained a copy, released two days after the 34-year-old’s death by state pathologist Giuseppe Fortuni, said Pantani died from a “terminal cardiovascular collapse, edema and congestion of the brain with small subarachnoid hemorrhage, massive pulmonary congestion.”
However the investigation was reopened by prosecutors in August after Pantani family lawyer Antonio De Rensis handed prosecutors fresh evidence supposedly supporting claims of foul play. Pantani’s mother Tonina has always maintained that her son was murdered and Francesco Maria Avato, a professor at the Department of Biomedical Science at the University of Ferrara, said last July that “huge amount of drugs found in Pantani’s body suggested the cyclist could not have possibly ingested the drugs, in such amounts, by traditional methods”.
Avato’s testimony helped fuel speculation that Pantani, whose previous doctor claimed he would buy up to 150 grams of cocaine at a time, was killed by a third party who forced him to ingests massive quantities of the drug. De Rensis claims incidents during the investigation of the crime scene have left many questions unanswered, and the Italian media have been quick to seize on the story.
“There are still too many unanswered questions about this case. We will keep on fighting until we come to a fair and proper conclusion,” he told AFP.
On Monday, faced with increasing scrutiny in recent months and claims they did not carry out the investigation diligently, the officers released a statement through lawyers threatening to launch defamation proceedings. Lawyer Moreno Maresi told AFP in Rimini on Monday: “We are starting to verify who has written. It is only right people are allowed to protect their reputation.”
Although not been aired in public, the film of the crime scene investigation was watched by AFP in its entirety on Monday. It shows officers entering Pantani’s apartment at Hotel Le Rose at 2247 on the evening of February 14, 2004, where they found the dead cyclist’s body on an upper floor of the mezzanine. Officers are heard moving furniture and objects while on the lower level of the apartment, as a doctor, on an upper level, inspects and moves Pantani’s body before removing a ‘ball’ of what is later confirmed as cocaine wrapped in bread from a puddle of coagulated blood near the dead cyclist’s head and under his torso. After moving Pantani’s body, a bruise above the left eye and larger bruises above the right eye and on the nose are clearly visible.
One of De Rensis’s claims is that Pantani may have been beaten by a third party – a suggestion pathologist Franco Tagliaro refuted Monday in a statement sent to Rimini prosecutors and obtained by AFP.
“Marco Pantani was neither assaulted nor hit before he died,” said Tagliaro. On hearing of the release of Rossini’s book debunking a homicide hypothesis which has added further mystery to the Pantani case Tonina Pantani, issued a terse statement on her Facebook page.
“I don’t have time to lose, listening to more lies,” she said.