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Dopage: Boots Gets the Gentle Boot

Michele Scarponi is given three-month exclusion from racing

Susie Hartigan

Lampre rider Michele "Boots" Scarponi, a former winner of the Giro d'Italia, was given a three-month ban by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) today for calling on Dr. Evil, Michele Ferrari, in 2010. Scarponi (whose name Gnome-translates to "Boots", which is too delicious to ignore) commented that he has accepted the sentence, grumbled about not violating any codes, and pledged to ride the exact same program despite missing some March racing -- namely, Tirreno-Adriatico. [Ed: I misread the December 31 date as the start. It's actually the finish of the ban. So yeah, he's banned from racing over the holidays.]

I suppose this is a fair outcome, a ridiculously light penalty for a poorly-defined offense. Only since this fall has Ferrari been the subject of a full, permanent ban, though obviously anyone associating with him before that was raising eyebrows. Three months seems like a good ban for a lapse in judgment. That plus he should now be hounded by the testers until after the Giro.

Personally I'm not so sure this layoff from racing won't affect Scarponi. What will he do in April to get ready for the Giro? Pais Vasco perhaps, though only if it starts after his ban is up. Maybe another Spanish race. Then on to the Ardennes and Romandie. That's a rather hurried preparation for a potential Giro winner. Which Scarponi is in only the most theoretical sense, based mostly on a past victory and Lampre's lack of credible alternatives. Scarponi is in decline, which is good, because my interest and belief in him is too.