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CYCLING

Italian police arrest six in amateur cycling doping probe

The investigation into the death of cyclist Linas Rumsas, son of former professional rider Raimondas Rumsas, led on Thursday to sweeping arrests at his former Altopack amateur team, Italian prosecutors said.

Italian police arrest six in amateur cycling doping probe
Cyclists riding through Tuscany in the 2017 Giro d'Italia. Photo: Luk Benies/AFP

Police raided several premises in the Tuscan town of Lucca early on Thursday and detained team owner Luca Franceschi, former sports director Elso Frediani, pharmacist Andrea Bianchi and ex-trainer Michele Viola for allegedly supplying young riders with doping products.

Altopack was the team associated with the Velo Club Coppi Lunata with which 21-year-old Linas Rumsas competed before his death following a heart attack on May 2nd 2017.

“Since the young man, in the weeks leading up to his death, had obtained excellent placings in particularly tough races, far superior to those obtained in the past, the suspicion immediately arose that the sudden death was due to the use or abuse of unauthorized drugs,” police told a press conference.

Suspicions were reinforced because his father, Lithuanian rider Raimondas Rumsas, along with his mother Edita, had in the past been investigated for trafficking doping substances.

“The investigation has revealed the existence of a real partnership aimed at facilitating doping practices,” police said.

Franceschi “recruited the most promising cyclists, motivated them to take drugs and procured doping substances for them, including EPO [erythropoietin] in microdoses”.

Franceschi's parents are also alleged to have allowed riders inject themselves at their home where doping paraphernalia including syringes, needles and powerful painkillers were found. Twenty-five vials of EPO were also discovered in the fridge at Viola's house.

All were placed under house arrest pending the conclusion of the investigation with a further 17 people being probed.

Police also searched the home of the father of the young deceased cyclist and his older brother, Raimondas Rumsas Junior, also a promising cyclist, who was suspended for four years last month for doping.

Rumsas's parents were at the centre of a doping investigation in 2003 when French customs officers seized a large quantity of doping products in Edita Rumsas's car on the day her husband finished third in the Tour de France.

Rumsas Senior tested positive for EPO at the 2003 Giro d'Italia and was suspended for one year.

Altopack is one of Italy's biggest amateur cycling teams and young athletes are said to have been encouraged to take banned products including EPO, growth hormone and opiate-based painkillers.

Searches were also carried out in other Tuscan towns, and the northern city of Bergamo.

Update, February 14th: The name of the cycling team has been adjusted to reflect Eppela did not have a relationship to the cycling team, other than a sponsorship arrangement which ended in October 2017.

HISTORY

Italian researchers discover 14 descendants of Leonardo Da Vinci living in Tuscany

Historians are searching for relatives of the Italian Renaissance artist as a study of his genealogy aims to ‘better understand his genius’.

Italian researchers discover 14 descendants of Leonardo Da Vinci living in Tuscany
Vinci, the Tuscan village where Leonardo Da Vinci was born. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

The researchers behind the project, which has spanned several decades, say they have so far found 14 living relatives aged one and 85.

All of them live in the region of Tuscany, where the painter, scientist, engineer and architect was born in 1452.

READ ALSO: Eight things you might not know about Leonardo Da Vinci

The findings form part of a decades-long project, led by art historians Alessandro Vezzosi and Agnese Sabato.

The study’s findings, published in the Human Evolution journal, document the male line over the past 690 years, through 21 generations.

Though Da Vinci never married and had no children, he had at least 22 half-brothers, according to researchers.

Born in the Tuscan town of Vinci, he was the illegitimate son of a local notary.

READ ALSO: Vinci, the Tuscan paradise where Leonardo’s genius bloomed

Vezzosi told the Ansa news agency that by 2016 “we had already identified 35 of Leonardo’s living relatives, but they were mostly indirect, in the female line, as in the best-known case of the director Franco Zeffirelli.”

“So they were not people who could give us useful information on Leonardo’s DNA and in particular on the Y chromosome, which is transmitted to male descendants and remains almost unchanged for 25 generations”.

He said the 14 living descendants identified in the study, through painstaking research over the decades, were from the male line.

READ ALSO: Da Vinci’s ‘claw hand’ left him unable to hold palette: researchers

“They are aged between one and 85, they don’t live right in Vinci but in neighbouring towns as far away as Versilia (on the Tuscan coast) and they have ordinary jobs such as a clerk, a surveyor, an artisan,” Vezzosi said.

The relatives’ DNA samples will be analysed in the coming months by the international Leonardo Da Vinci DNA Project, led by the Jesse Ausubelof Rockefeller University in New York and supported by the Richard Lounsbery Foundation.

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