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Italian Cycling Star on Trial

June 6, 2000

FORLI, Italy (AP) _ Italian cycling star Marco Pantani will be tried for sports fraud in connection with his alleged use of banned substances during a 1995 race.

Magistrate Stefano Celli ordered Pantani to stand trial because tests showed a high red blood cell count in the 1995 Milan-Turin race, spokesman Giuseppe Lorefice said. A high red blood cell count can indicate the use of the banned performance-enhancing growth hormone EPO; it can also occur naturally.

``We hope the trial we be held soon so we can show how weak the charges are both from a judicial and a scientific point of view,″ Pantani’s lawyer, Gaetano Insolera, said.

Pantani’s count was found to be almost 60 percent above normal when he was tested during the 1995 race.

The cyclist, who won both the Giro and Tour the France in 1998, was thrown out of the 1999 Giro for failing a random blood test with two stages remaining.

He is attempting a comeback after a year of self-imposed exile. On Sunday, he ended this year’s Giro d’ Italia an hour behind the winning time.

Known as ``The Pirate″ because of the bandanna he wears during races, Pantani has in the past denied taking EPO.

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