The drug dealer who sold Marco Pantani his fatal dose of cocaine has been sentenced to four years and six months in prison by a judge in Italy.

Former nightclub manager Fabio Carlino had always denied his involvement in Pantani?s tragic death on February 14 2004, and refused to a plea bargain agreement like other drug dealers involved, but was found guilty of the death of Marco Pantani as a consequence of his actions and for drug dealing.

Former Russian model and prostitute Elena Korovina, who was reported to be Pantani?s last girlfriend before he died, was cleared of any charges, while the judge awarded 300,000 Euros to Pantani?s parents.

The sentence was issued the day after what would have been Pantani?s 38th birthday. His family and friends held a day of memory in his home town of Cesenatico.

Despite the verdicts in the trial, Pantani?s mother promised she will continue to try to discover what really caused the death of her son.

?There?s still a lot of mystery surrounding Marco?s death. First of all what happened between February 9 when my son bought the cocaine, and February 14 he died of a lung and brain oedema. In those five days other people and other substances were probably involved. Why did they take out his heart during the autopsy, why didn?t they take fingerprints and what about the marks on his body?? she said to Italian sports paper La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Tonina Pantani has always believed her son?s death began on June 5 1999, when Pantani was excluded from the Giro d?Italia while leading the race after a high haematocrit test. She believes Pantani was excluded from the race because he was too successful and because of an illegal betting ring.

She has promised to investigate what happened in the 1999 Giro and has taken heart from a recent decision by an Italian judge to begin formal investigations into the events that occurred between the 1999 Giro d?Italia and Pantani?s tragic death on St Valentine?s day 2004.

Photo: Marco Pantani at the Criterium International 2002. Offside/L’Equipe