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Paging Doctor Ferrari by Bill Gifford

Paging Doctor Ferrari by Bill Gifford

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Published by Cycling Fan
One of the more fascinating articles on Dr. Ferrari's relationship with his "clients", how he literally wiped a Swiss pharmacy off its EPO stock, how he allegedly prescribed drugs and dosages to his athletes in their diaries, and his secret relationship with Armstrong, among other greats like Francesco Moser. The most brilliant part of this article on the seemingly righteous "il dottore" is at the end where he denies a much documented event in which he was seen wearing a fake race number and pushing his daughter up a climb so she wouldn't lose her race. It shows a reader that "il dottore" could call "bullshit" upon anything as and when he pleased.

Appeared in Bicycling Magazine in 2006.
One of the more fascinating articles on Dr. Ferrari's relationship with his "clients", how he literally wiped a Swiss pharmacy off its EPO stock, how he allegedly prescribed drugs and dosages to his athletes in their diaries, and his secret relationship with Armstrong, among other greats like Francesco Moser. The most brilliant part of this article on the seemingly righteous "il dottore" is at the end where he denies a much documented event in which he was seen wearing a fake race number and pushing his daughter up a climb so she wouldn't lose her race. It shows a reader that "il dottore" could call "bullshit" upon anything as and when he pleased.

Appeared in Bicycling Magazine in 2006.

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Published by: Cycling Fan on May 27, 2010
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01/16/2013

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Paging Doctor Ferrari
©Dale Stephanos
For the past two decades, when cycling's greatest racers have needed that last bit of speed toturn themselves into legends, they've called for Michele Ferrari.
By Bill GiffordAs Michele Ferrari walks down a crowded street in Ferrara, Italy, in bright winter sunshine, hissmile is the same one you can see in the few published photos of him, in which he is sun-tannedand well-dressed, as if he'd just stepped out of La Dolce Vita. But as he draws closer, you see thesmile is really just a display of teeth. Perhaps even a grimace.He was once recognized as one of the brightest sports scientists in the history of cycling, maybethe most innovative ever, the pioneer who helped develop landmark tests that let riders pinpointtheir physiological parameters so they could train harder and smarter. But now the mere mention
 
of his name can trigger a scandal, for 52-year-old Michele Ferrari has become a pariah in thesport he helped revolutionize.He has worked with Francesco Moser, Tony Rominger, Mario Cipollini, Lance Armstrong andother storied cyclists to set records and win Grand Tours, Classics, and other important races. For two decades he has engineered champions. For nearly as long, he has been suspected of dopinghis champions, as well.The years of allegations came to a head in October 2004, when Ferrari was convicted in Italy ontwo doping-related charges, for which he was fined $1,200, barred from practicing medicine, andgiven a suspended sentence of a year in jail, all of which he is appealing. The worst penalty,however, wasn't imposed by the court. Within hours, his last major client and his staunchestdefender, Armstrong, severed all formal ties with Ferrari, after having won six Tours de Francewith the doctor's help.His shunning was complete.The trouble started with orange juice. Within cycling circles, Ferrari had been well-known andrespected as a trainer since the mid '80s. He became notorious in the spring of 1994, after threeteam Gewiss riders he was working with swept the Belgian Classic Fleche Wallonne. After therace, journalists peppered him with the usual questions asked of any outstanding cycling performance nowadays. "How can you explain it?" he imitates them now, mockingly: "Blah, blah, blah!"He knew the reporters were alluding to performance-enhancing drugs, specifically EPO, thesynthetic blood booster erythropoietin, which at the time was already banned but undetectable intests. And, being Michele Ferrari, he gave his honest opinion.You can say someone's doping, he said, only if they test positive for something that's banned. "If it doesn't show up in the drug controls, then it's not doping," Ferrari was quoted as having said (astatement he has since characterized as a misquote), reportedly also adding that if he were arider, he just might take whatever he could get away with. And by the way, he informed theFrench sports daily L'Equipe and a handful of Italian newspapers, "EPO is not dangerous, it's theabuse that is. It's also dangerous to drink 10 liters of orange juice."Kaboom. It was as if he'd tried to toss a hand grenade at his critics from a car, but forgot that thewindows were rolled up. Within days, he'd been fired as team doctor for Gewiss. His problems,and his glory, were just beginning.For the next decade, he was a hunted man-pursued by investigative reporters and lawenforcement on the one hand and, on the other, by riders seeking his services. ErwannMenthéour, a French ex-pro who was one of the first athletes to be suspended for EPO use, in1997, writes in his book, Secret Defense, of going to visit "il dottore."In the waiting room, Menthour says, he saw "some of the greatest athletes in the world sittingthere, like a virgin on her first visit to the gynecologist. It almost made me laugh out loud."
 
In the fall of 1994, Ferrari helped Swiss rider Tony Rominger break cycling's sacred hour record.Twice. The following spring, his riders swept the top five places in the Giro d'Italia, led byRominger and the Russian Evgeni Berzin, a burly pursuit rider who'd somehow become aclimber.Ferrari gave no interviews, and worked largely in secret. He became known in the peloton as IlMito, or The Legend, an appellation that is chillingly appropriate. In all of his mystery, andsuccess, and uncertainty, Ferrari is the essence of the doping debate itself-a frustrating twilightzone where guilt and innocence alike are difficult to prove. Accusations often exceed evidence,while proof itself is always on trial. The result is a sport where every victory is tainted bysuspicion. Case in point: Lance Armstrong, Ferrari's most famous (and in recent years, onlyacknowledged) major client. Although Armstrong passed dozens, if not hundreds, of drug testsduring his seven-year Tour de France winning streak, his career remains the subject of never-ending allegations, even after his retirement. He probably wouldn't have won without Ferrari'straining genius, but now he can't rest because of him.Just as there is clean and dirty, guilty and innocent, there seem to be two opposing MicheleFerraris. There is the young team doctor, barely in his thirties, who quit in a huff after finding pills hidden in a stack of jerseys on the team bus-not even an illegal drug, but one he hadn'tknown about. There is an older Ferrari, working for another team, telling reporters that it "doesn'tscandalize me" if his riders went to Switzerland to buy EPO over the counter.There is a brilliant coach and trainer, who welcomes athletes in the autumn of their careers, or riders who have lost direction, and helps them find new motivation and discipline. And there is aMichele Ferrari who makes cryptic notes in his riders' training logs to tell them-according to prosecutors-when to take EPO, steroids and growth hormone to maximize their results whileavoiding detection. This is the Ferrari described by the European media as "sulfurous," as thoughhe'd studied medicine in the very depths of hell itself. "For many years, [Ferrari] was like thedevil in the sport," says Pier Bergonzi, longtime cycling correspondent for La Gazzetta delloSport, Italy's premier sports daily. To avoid the press, this Ferrari would sometimes meet hisclients on lonely roads in his camper van. And there is a Ferrari who lives in a quiet villa hiddenin a copse of trees just outside the university town of Ferrara, a caring and dedicated coach who became so involved with his riders that he spent Christmases with them and their families. Ridersspeak of the new inspiration and confidence this Ferrari instilled in them, when they thoughttheir careers were lost.This much is indisputable: If Ferrari agreed to work with you, and you could afford him-hetypically charged between 10 and 20 percent of a rider's salary-it would make your career.One of his first resurrections was performed on an Italian rider, Moreno Argentin, who came toFerrari in 1989. Argentin had won the world road championship in 1986 but had since hit theskids, with two years of bad results. At only 29, he was thinking about retiring. Then he made the pilgrimage to Ferrara, a walled medieval town on the flat coastal plain near the Po River."Thanks to Ferrari, I found new motivation and conviction," says Argentin, over an espresso inhis hometown on the plains near Venice, where he is now a successful real estate developer. "He

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