Lampre-Merida is considering what to do with Michele Scarponi following his second doping suspension. The Italian team is refusing to race Scarponi after seeing his ties to banned doctor Michele Ferrari and listening to the concerns of its sponsors.
“He’s still suspended,” Lampre’s press officer, Andrea Appiani told Cycling Weekly. “This week, he’s due to meet with [general manager, Giuseppe] Saronni.”
Scarponi, 33, planned on making his season debut in the Majorca Challenge. He wanted to race Paris-Nice ahead of Milan-San Remo and the Giro d’Italia.
Lampre refused to field him in Majorca and Scarponi failed to show for the team’s official 2013 photos. The situation appeared odd given Scarponi was Lampre’s second-ranked rider for 2012.
Scarponi won the 2011 Giro d’Italia, albeit after Alberto Contador lost the title due to a doping case. He placed fourth on two other occasions and scored overall victories in Giro del Trentino and the Tour of Catalonia in 2011.
The situation changed over the winter when Saronni welcomed Taiwanese bike manufacturer, Merida as a co-title sponsor.
Merida concerns itself more with Scarponi’s doping record than his palmarès. It knew that Scarponi already served an 18-month suspension for his ties to Operación Puerto. He worked with blood-doping doctor, Eufemiano Fuentes as Zapatero and eventually sat out part of the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
Scarponi’s situation has worsened, however, since Merida replaced Wilier as bike supplier and sponsor in late October. Reports surfaced of Scarponi’s dealings with doping doctor Michele Ferrari.
Ferrari was banned globally last summer as part of USADA’s Lance Armstrong investigation. Since 2002, he has been prohibited from working with cyclists in Italy.
Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper in October detailed Scarponi’s meeting with Ferrari on September 27, 2010. It printed police records, which included their conversation on that day.
Scarponi allegedly said, “I could’ve won the Giro.” Ferrari responded, “If you had a bag [of blood] you would’ve had your chance.”
The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) reacted and suspended Scarponi on 12 December. Its three-month suspension appeared useless, backdated to include much of his off-season, but it succeeded in drawing attention to the team’s top brass.
Scarponi faces more meetings, which could see his 2013 contract annulled.