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Is Michele Scarponi Finished?

Lampre's Michele Scarponi is facing a certain suspension for Ferrari links. Now what?

Sometime very soon, Michele Scarponi will get served with some more vacation time by the Italian Olympic Committee. The Lampre rider has admitted to working with Dr. Michele Ferrari, the disgraced doctor at the center of Lance-gate who has been banned from the sport of cycling. Scarponi's defense? Basically "I didn't know I couldn't work with him," and "I swear, we were just talking." Or, running some tests, but you get the drift. They never went all the way.

Unfortunately, just talking with Ferrari is a bannable offense... maybe. Countryman Filippo Pozzato got a six-month vacation for talking with Ferrari earlier this fall. Slap on the wrist. The rub is that Ferrari was banned for life in 2012, while Scarponi allegedly talked with the doping doc in 2010. But Pozzato's contacts with Ferrari span the years from 2005 to 2008, with some sporadic contacts later. And he got a ban.

Further complicating things is that Scarponi was previously banned for 18 months in the Operacion Puerto scandal. Perhaps he was "just talking" with Eufemiano Fuentes then too; he never admitted doping. Two positive doping tests could lead to a lifetime ban from the sport. Two insinuations of maybe doping? Not so clear. Scarponi is hopeful this will blow over.

It won't. Lampre have already suspended him pending CONI's decision, docking his pay temporarily, though they are walking the fine "it happened before we signed him" line. If CONI stay consistent, they could suspend him six months and we will see a rusty Scarponi in April, scrambling for his Giro form. If they or Lampre decide the sport's integrity requires a stronger statement, well, anything is possible. Stay tuned.