At the ‘Operation Puerto’ trial which opened in Madrid last week, Spanish
doctor Eufemiano Fuentes faced charges of supplying and administering banned
doping products to a number of top cyclists and athletes.
Cipollini, a former star sprinter who was crowned world champion in 2002,
is accused by Italian sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport of being one of
The paper carried a huge front page photo of the rider, once known as the
‘Lion King’ for his flamboyant personality and flowing locks of blonde hair,
with the headline ‘Here is the evidence which snares Cipollini’.
Cipollini told the paper he would make “no comment” until studying all the
details of the allegations against him.
The report claims to have solid evidence of the doping programme Fuentes
prepared for Cipollini during the period 2001-2004.
Referred to as ‘Maria’ — like many of the other cyclists who were given
code names by the doctor — Cipollini is alleged to have used the banned blood
booster (erythropoietin) as well as blood transfusions.
The Italian cycling federation (FIC) responded by saying it would become a
civil party in the case, effectively in a bid to see Cipollini face doping
“The Italian Cycling Federation will constitute a civil party in the
‘Operation Puerto’ investigation, in the light of the allegations against
Mario Cipollini,” FIC president Renato Di Rocco announced.
Cipollini had an outstanding year in 2002, winning the Milan-SanRemo
one-day classic, Ghent-Wevelgem semi-classic, six stages at the Giro d’Italia,
three at the Tour of Spain and then the world title in Zolder, Belgium.
La Gazzetta claims it has evidence that Cipollini was administered a blood
transfusion three days before Milan-SanRemo, as well as before Ghent-Wevelgem,
the start of the Tour of Spain and a last one four days before the World
Championships road race in Zolder.
Blood transfusions are particularly attractive for endurance athletes
because they boost performance via the added oxygen-rich blood cells in the
blood while being difficult to detect.
With nearly 200 wins in his career from 1989 to 2005, Cipollini is
considered one of the greatest sprinters of all time.
Included in his honors list are 12 Tour de France stages and 42 from the
The biggest names to have already served suspensions for their role in
Operation Puerto are Spaniard Alejandro Valverde and Italian Ivan Basso.
The FIC statement added that representatives from Italy’s Olympic Committee
(CONI), which usually deals with doping cases in the country, will be in
Madrid Monday for the anticipated testimony of Basso, who rides for the