The exhumation of Marco Pantani appears unlikely but Italian media reported on Tuesday that it could happen as police re-examine the cause of the Italian cyclist’s death in 2004.
The prosecutor in charge of a new investigation into the possible murder of the 1998 Giro d’Italia and Tour de France winner could rely on copies of autopsy material after the local office in Rimini, Italy, already destroyed the originals.
“The destruction of the autopsy report is automatic according to the Code of Criminal Procedure when the trial is finished,” Italy’s ANSA news agency quoted a statement from Rimini’s prosecutor’s office. “In this case that came 10 years after the judgment in the supreme court.”
Doctor Giuseppe Fortuni performed the autopsy the week after Pantani died in a Rimini hotel on February 14, 2004. It was determined that Pantani, who already dealt with cocaine addiction, overdosed on the drug and died.
The parts of body tissue mounted on slides or in paraffin blocks no longer exist, however, as 10 years passed without a request to conserve the samples and documents. Copies of related material do exist and are available to Paolo Giovagnoli, Rimini’s head prosecutor in charge of the new inquiry. He could pass these along to his medical expert in the case, Doctor Franco Tagliaro at the University of Verona, if needed.
Giovagnoli, reported ANSA, will not need to order an exhumation because Tagliaro would have the same material that was used by Pantani’s family to push for the new inquiry opened in August. A medical expert hired by Pantani’s parents, Tonina and Paolo, used the copies that were made 10 years ago.
Pantani’s lawyer, Antonio De Rensis, argues that Pantani let known men into his room on February 14. The men hit the 34-year-old and forced him to drink water diluted with lethal amounts of cocaine. He said that police investigated the Le Rose hotel room poorly and never examined the water bottle in the room.
The news that Rimini offices destroyed the original autopsy material, however, will help De Rensis’ argument of poor police work and further stir the controversy in Italy surrounding Pantani’s death.
The country’s leading sports newspaper, La Gazzetta dello Sport, printed an article saying that there is now a “concrete theory” for exhumation.
The news comes while a separate inquiry opened in nearby Forlì is examining if the mafia played a role in Pantani’s failed anti-doping test and expulsion from the 1999 Giro d’Italia while in the race leader’s pink jersey.