Prosecutor Demands Cyclist’s DNA
TRENTO, Italy (AP) _ An Italian prosecutor on Wednesday ordered DNA tests on the blood of Italian cycling star Marco Pantani, who was kicked out of the Tour of Italy last June after failing a blood test.
The office of prosecutor Bruno Giardina said tests were intended to prove if blood samples showing a high count of red cells actually belonged to the Italian cyclist and if tests which led to Pantani’s ban from the Giro d’Italia were properly handled by International Cycling Union doctors.
Tests may also reveal if blood samples taken by doctors from Pantani and 10 other cyclists on the eve of the penultimate stage of the Giro contained natural or artificial substances.
Pantani, the Giro and Tour of France winner in 1998, was suspended for two weeks and prevented from completing the Giro that he was dominating after random blood tests showed his count of red cells exceeded the allowed level of 50 percent.
A high count of red blood cells may signal the use of the banned growth hormone EPO, but can also occur naturally.
Further investigation of the case has long been sought by Pantani’s lawyers.
Pantani, also troubled by a knee injury, has not been competing since his suspension from the Giro but said recently he planned to return to action next year.