Doctor: Son advising Lance Armstrong
ROME -- Lance Armstrong is receiving training advice from the son of banned Italian physician Michele Ferrari, the doctor says.
Responding to allegations that appeared in Italian media this week linking him to the center of a widespread doping ring, Ferrari denied any wrongdoing in a statement posted online Thursday.
Corriere della Sera reported Wednesday that Ferrari's son also was involved in the distribution of performance-enhancing drugs, and that Armstrong called the son before last year's Tour de France, referring to him as "No. 1."
"My son Stefano is administering a website which offers personalized training consultancy to various cyclists and triathletes; Lance Armstrong is among them," Ferrari said in the statement.
Corriere also reported that the seven-time Tour de France winner made payments to Michele Ferrari through a front company in Switzerland called Health and Performance, though it did not say when those payments were made.
The timing is crucial because Ferrari was an adviser to Armstrong for years, but the cyclist publicly severed their professional relationship in 2004. Armstrong has since acknowledged meeting Ferrari socially after that.
Armstrong, who won the Tour every year from 1999 to 2005, has always fiercely denied doping and has never failed a drug test. He is, however, being investigated by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles that has been meeting for more than a year to examine illegal drug use in professional cycling.
A spokesman for Armstrong declined to comment on the Italian media reports earlier this week and did not immediately return messages Friday seeking reaction to Ferrari's statement.
The latest developments come during a busy time for Armstrong. He represented Livestrong, his cancer charity, at a summit this week in New York City partly sponsored by the United Nations and will compete Saturday in an off-road triathlon in Utah.
Corriere, citing work by Swiss and Italian investigators, reported that Ferrari was behind the "anonymous company now in liquidation."
A register of Swiss companies lists Health and Performance as being created in Neuchatel on Feb. 26, 1996, as a sports medical and training consultancy. It was listed as having working capital of $112,000 before being liquidated Nov. 23, after a decision by the company's general assembly.
"The company called Health and Performance existed from 1996 until 2010: it offered consultancy services to elite athletes, and certainly had nothing to do with doping," Ferrari said in his statement. "I was a consultant for this company, and have always presented regular parcels and invoices, all of which result in my tax return statements."
Ferrari was cleared on appeal in 2006 of criminal charges accusing him of distributing doping products to athletes, but he remains barred for life by the Italian Cycling Federation under a 2002 ruling.
Corriere's report also said that top cyclists Denis Menchov and Michele Scarponi worked with Ferrari, and it claimed that the physician used a series of foreign cell phones and meetings in unusual places for doping purposes.
The report said he used a mobile "camper" as a medical office, moving from one mountain to another -- driving from the Italian Apennines to St. Moritz in Switzerland to the Euganei hills near Padua.
Italian authorities said earlier this year they suspect Ferrari of continuing to work with 20 to 30 top-level cyclists, including Armstrong, despite his ban and are actively pursuing that line of investigation.
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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