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Cippolini lawyer says Operation Puerto link 'absurd'

Itlay's former rider and World champion Mario Cipollini (L) with Lampre rider Enrico Gasparotto visit San Gregorio village near L'Aquila dur
Itlay's former rider and World champion Mario Cipollini (L) with Lampre rider Enrico Gasparotto visit San Gregorio village near L'Aquila dur

MADRID (Reuters) - Former world road race champion Mario Cipollini has denied he was a patient of Eufemiano Fuentes, the Spanish doctor at the centre of the Operation Puerto trial into an alleged doping ring in cycling.

Cippolini's lawyer Giuseppe Napoleone told Italian news agency ANSA allegations published in Saturday's edition of sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport were "absurd".

Gazzetta reported that Cipollini was behind the codename "Maria" that appeared in documents seized as part of the Puerto investigation.

Cipollini was prepared to submit to medical tests to prove frozen blood that police found stored in bags was not his, ANSA quoted Napoleone as saying.

A host of professional cyclists have been linked with Fuentes, who denies involvement in doping, including German Jan Ullrich and Italian Ivan Basso, who were both excluded from the 2006 Tour de France.

Basso, a double Giro d'Italia champion, is due to give evidence on Monday with Alberto Contador, the Spaniard stripped of one of his three Tour titles after testing positive for a banned substance, appearing on February 22.

Sprint specialist Cipollini, 45, won the world title in 2002 and 12 stages on the Tour de France.

Known as the "Lion King", he retired in 2005 but made a short-lived comeback in 2008. He currently runs a business making clothing and road bikes.

The Puerto trial is being closely followed in Spain and beyond because anti-doping authorities are hopeful it will finally lead to evidence of wrongdoing in sports other than cycling being made available.

As Spain's current anti-doping legislation was not in force in 2006 when the police raids took place, Fuentes and his fellow accused, including his sister Yolanda, are being tried for violating public health regulations.

(Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Ken Ferris)

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