Doping investigators probing Italian cycling star Pantani

Prosecutors investigating the use of banned substances in sports have notified Italian cycling star Marco Pantani he is under formal investigation, his Mercatone Uno team said today.

Prosecutors investigating the use of banned substances in sports have notified Italian cycling star Marco Pantani he is under formal investigation, his Mercatone Uno team said today.

Pantani was kicked out of this summer's Tour of Italy after a blood test showed possible use of the banned performance-enhancing growth hormone EPO.

Pantani, a double Giro and Tour of France winner in 1998, denied taking EPO.

Mercatone Uno disclosed the prosecutors' notification in a brief statement.

Team official Giuseppe Martinelli said Pantani would go before prosecutors as requested, and said he himself would go to answer prosecutors' questions in coming days.

"In this moment I really don't know what to say, and I wouldn't know how to judge the actions of the prosecutors," Martinell said.

Prosecutors last month ordered DNA tests on Pantani's blood, apparently reviewing the handling and outcome of the random blood check that led to his suspension from June's competition.

Pantani, also troubled by a knee injury, has not been competing since his suspension in the Giro, but said recently he planned to return to action next year.

Authorities in Turin have been conducting their investigation into use of banned substances by athletes since August 1998.

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