20 years without Marco Pantani, the “pirate” who left an unfillable void


By John

For 20 years now, Valentine’s Day has been a sad day for Italian athletes: in fact, on 14 February 2004, the lifeless body of Marco Pantani was found in the “Le Rose” residence in Rimini, perhaps the most loved cyclist of all time. A cursed day in which the “Pirate” lost his life with the death, as revealed by the autopsy, which occurred between 11.30 and 12.30, caused by pulmonary and cerebral edema, resulting from a cocaine overdose and, according to a report carried out later, also of psychotropic drugs. Yet the beginning of the end dated June 5, 1999 when he was sensationally suspended from a Giro d’Italia that he had already won. In fact, that morning, Pantani – as also admitted by some mafiosi in prison years later – was targeted by an organization linked to the Camorra which managed to exchange the anti-doping test tubes, altering the hematocrit values.

The suspension came immediately, but Pantani, aware of his innocence, decided to have some analyzes done in a laboratory recognized by the cycling federation. However, his words were of no use and the suspension also threw mud at him, one of the most loved champions of all time. The unjust suspension from racing, the discouragement and unexpressed anger led Pantani into depression. It was precisely this that, on February 14, 2004, the day of love par excellence, led Pantani, still in love with cycling that had been unjustly taken from him, to lock himself in his room, putting an end to his life in a residence in Riminia few dozen meters from the apartment where the cocaine dealers he frequented in those days were staying. Today, 20 years later, the figure of Pantani remains an icon of Italian sport, a character who has left an unbridgeable void and which cycling, today more than ever, would greatly need.