Marco Pantani’s death in 2004 has been shrouded in mystery, rumour and conspiracy theories for years. However a judge in Rimini, where the cyclist nicknamed 'the pirate' died of a drug overdose, declared this week that his death was not due to murder.
Judge Vinicio Cantarini was officially closing a two year inquiry instigated by Pantani’s family who had suggested that he had been forced to take a lethal cocaine overdose. However no evidence was found to support this, the investigation concluding that his death was due either to suicide or an accidental overdose.
However prosecutors in Forli are continuing a separate investigation alleging that Pantani’s haematocrit levels were altered in the 1999 Giro d’Italia by a Naples Mafia syndicate known as the Camorra who stood to lose out from illegal bets if ‘Il Pirata’ won. At the time he had an unassailable lead but the resulting blood test led to him being withdrawn from the race.
Pantani went into a decline after his ban and never fully reached the heights he had achieved at the beginning of his career. He suffered from depression and was eventually admitted to a clinic specializing in treating patients from nervous disorders and alcohol and drug abuse. After his death 20,000 people lined up to pay their respects at his funeral and he remains one of the most loved cyclists of all time. Read his profile and life story here.