Doping Trials: The Facts, pt. 2

08 May 2011

DOPING TRIALS: THE FACTS THAT MAYBE YOU DON’T KNOW 

The following is the second part in a series of articles presenting facts with regard to the Criminal Trial of Dr Michele Ferrari, which ended in 2006
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- THE "MEDICAL RECORDS" -

The so-called medical records of the athletes were transparent file folders. 
Inside of each folder there was a collection of data relative to each visit: a paper reported the performance test, another sheet was the training schedule and sometimes there were also the results of laboratory analyses. 
Each test sheet indicated the name of the athlete and date of the visit, information that was not mentioned in the training programs, as the two sheets were held together by a paperclip. 

The NAS, during their analyzing of the folders on date 09/02/98 as instructed by Marshal Ostili, separated the test sheets from the corresponding training schedules, making it difficult to recognize and collocate them. 

A lot of mix-up was being made already during the seizure process, with the objective of progressively number all the papers (over 1000), as the folders were emptied on a table all at the same time and several pages of some of the athletes' files were mistakenly attributed to others. 
Many papers eventually were reported with the same number, just as other sheets were not numbered since they were originally stapled to others, while some numerations were completely absent. 

When the folders were returned to me on 10/27/98, they were completely muddled up and it was at that point impossible, even for myself, to correctly recognize and attribute many of the papers, as they were without a date or a name. 
All of this was timely and repeatedly brought to the attention of both the Public Prosecutor and the Judge. 

Moreover, the NAS did not attach all of the medical records in their entirety to the briefing for the Prosecutor, but operated a SELECTION (among the tests and laboratory analyses) of what they thought to be useful for the Prosecution theory... 
Even the Expert examination by Plebani-Cazzola-Ferrara only considered the reports contained in the briefing, while many blood tests were excluded from the "selection" made by the NAS, led by Marshal Ostili. 
Only once the trial started, the Defense, not without difficulty, managed to have the blood profiles of the athletes included in their entirety; the profiles were eventually reassessed in the subsequent expert reports commissioned by the Judge, prepared by Prof. Conte. 

- THE HEMATIC TESTS - 

The core of the debate at the trial, taking most of the time and efforts of the Prosecution, was: «the fluctuations in hematocrit and haemoglobin, just as the ferritin values, are evidence of EPO use by all cyclists assisted by Dr. Ferrari.» 
The same was for the "media trial" of TV and newspapers. 

I have already discussed about the Prosecution's Experts report, drawn up by Prof. Plebani, Cazzola and Ferrara, in the 53x12.com Article: “Indipendent Experts: reliable?“ published on 12/07/10. 
I will spare you the endless story of Reports and Counter-Reports, in which the "Experts" on the topic of the variability of hematologic parameters stated "everything and the opposite of everything", in accordance with the proceedings in which their authoritative opinion was requested. 

Eventually, after a long time (over 2 years!) and money spent, even Judge Passarini himself wrote: «…the blood tests ended up having an importance that is somehow inversely proportional to the large space dedicated to them in the course of the proceedings.» 

Furthermore, he was compelled to admit, albeit in a twisted way, that «the hematic values found for the different cyclists… do not indicate in terms of absolute certainty the assumption of erythropoietin… but they might find some kind of explanation that is not necessarily that of the resort to the intake of drugs (in particular erythropoietin).» 

Some of the cyclists that were coming to my study for the first time presented very high values in FERRITIN, between 600 and 1000 ng/ml: among them was Bortolami, Faresin, Escartin, Rominger, Zaina, Gotti, Chiappucci, Simeoni. 
I recommended to all of them to donate blood, during the winter period, so as to decrease the excess iron, which could potentially affect their health. 
All of the bloodlettings were indicated in the "medical records" that made it to the trial, but the PM's consultants did not even notice. 

Prof. Mario Cazzola, hematologist, one of the three Experts of the Prosecution, author of CONI's "IO NON RISCHIO LA SALUTE" (I do not risk my health) protocol and promulgator of the BIOLOGIC PASSPORT, during the trial declared with regard to the high ferritin values: «…that is why I say that cyclists that still now have a high ferritin should do bloodlettings, in order to normalize the status of body iron... more than half of the european cyclists has ferritin values exceeding 500mg/liter.» 

Imagine the surprise in the courtroom when I pointed out that for years I had been advising my athletes with high ferritin levels to donate blood, as it resulted from my medical records, as well as from the diary of Simeoni. 
Already back then I was one of the very few that was worried for the HEALTH of the riders, and probably the only one who was DOING SOMETHING about it. 
After such revelation, the attitude of Prof. Cazzola towards me changed, appearing surprised, interested and willing to discuss. 
A lively and open exchange of opinions followed, which retains its relevance even today; those interested can read all of it between p. 196 and p. 234 of the hearing records dated 03/19/2002 

I shall report only a few lines (Prof. Cazzola comparing the data of the cyclists to those of soccer players): 

CAZZOLA«…from the observations of the "Io Non Rischio La Salute” campaign… serie A soccer players, athletes subject to tremendous efforts too, have values in Hb between 14 and 15…and around 42-43 in Htc.» 
FERRARI«Then you force me to make a comment.» 
CAZZOLA«Go ahead» 
FERRARI:  «…I'd like to say that these people very well KNEW that they were going to be controlled that morning.» 
CAZZOLA«This is true.» (!!!) 
FERRARI«Since the hematocrit is a parameter that is very easy to manipulate, all it takes is to drink, clearly, it is not necessary to take albumin or emagel, as some people said. All it takes for you is to drink a nice big glass of water with a bit of salt within and the Htc lowers; half a liter of water and the Htc decreases by 2-3 points.» 
CAZZOLA«…it is absolutely true that all it takes is to drink in order to decrease haemoglobin and hematocrit.» 
JUDGE«All I need to know is that it is true that these soccer players knew in advance that they would be subjected to these tests... and that the analyses were manipulable, so to speak...» 

Perhaps Prof. Cazzola was not aware of the values ​​of Hct of the players of Parma Calcio (serie A soccer team), as had been stated and investigated by PM Spinosa in the same criminal proceedings and quickly put aside and archived as «lab errors»… 

- THE PHARMACY GIARDINI MARGHERITA -

Dr. Massimo Guandalini, one of the partners of the Pharmacy, devoted himself to the study of sport activity and the preparation of galenical mixes and supplements. 
I turned to him for the preparation of mixtures of amino acids, antioxidants and vitamin products, which I then distributed to some of my riders, for reasons of convenience, so to avoid them a trip to Bologna. 

The Pharmacy was well known throughout Italy for the quality of its preparations, so much so that even the National Italian Soccer Team, the Women's National Volleyball Team, Parma Calcio and several professional cycling teams turned to it. 

My remand for trial included two other offenses: 

Art. 445 C.P.: administration of medicines in ways dangerous to public health. 
Art. 348 C.P.: improper exercise of the profession of pharmacist. 

For both offenses I have been acquitted because «there is no foundation to the fact». 

Concerning the first, since no finding had emerged in the debate about the administration of medicines to any athlete, I was acquitted already in the first trial. 

With regard to Art. 348, NONE of the athletes that were listened at the hearing declared having received any drugs from me, let alone doping products, but only the supplements mentioned above. 
Although these supplements were distributed only occasionally to some of the cyclists, Judge Passarini condemned me anyway in the first trial. 
Clearly, the sentence of "improper exercise of the profession of pharmacist" was well suited to support the "sporting fraud". 
Two years later the Court of Appeals, for the same charge and the same facts, absolved me because «there is no foundation to the fact».