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14 Feb 2004
Italian cycling superstar Marco Pantani was found dead in a hotel room earlier today. For those of you unfamiliar with the European peloton, Pantani was on of the biggest names in the sport, having won both the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France in 1998. He was known as the pirate — il pirata — due to his iconic bandana and hoop earrings. And he was cocky. “Only Pantani can defeat the American!” he proclaimed before last year’s Tour.
But in ‘99, he was accused of doping and spent years in court trying to clear his reputation. Last year, he checked himself into a rehab center for treatment of depression and drug addiction. He was back in the Giro last year, but his team was not invited to the Tour. Sprinter Mario Cipollini’s comments echo the rest of the cycling world today, “It’s a tragedy of enormous proportions for everyone involved in cycling. I’m lost for words.”