22 January 2021

Athletes & reality TV stars encompassed in three Italian investigations

NADO Italia has announced sanctions on people involved in three criminal investigations that encompass a reality TV show; a cycling team; and an illegal drugs network. The first investigation involved Temptation Island, a popular TV show that airs on Canale 5.

In 2017, the UK’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) warned that body image now outweighed sporting performance as the main reason for taking image and performance enhancing drugs (IPEDs), such as anabolic steroids. Last year Tom Powell, a contestant on ITV reality TV show Love Island, said that the pressure to look good on the show had led him to inject steroids.

Temptation Island

Athletes and bodybuilders, including potential contestants on Temptation Island, have been sanctioned following a two year police investigation entitled ‘Mr Muscoli’, which was completed in 2019. The investigation began in 2017, after a father raised concerns about his son’s use of steroids.

It encompassed eighteen people including personal trainers, gymnasiums, two cyclists and a pharmacist, reported Il Centro in October 2019. Valerio di Munno, a bodybuilding champion, was one of those investigated. Police reportedly told the prosecutor that on 19 May, Di Munno was due to participate in the final round of castings for Temptation Island. Because of the show’s focus on the physical form, it was expected that he would again attempt to purchase anabolic agents because he had been unable to take substances seized from another suspect, Igor Gnagnarelli, on 20 April.

Prosecutors reportedly accepted that Di Munno had taken prohibited substances not only for cosmetic reasons, but also to improve his sporting performance. NADO Italia confirmed that he had been sanctioned with a ten year ban from sport from 16 December 2020. NADO Italia confirmed yesterday that a 15 year ban had been imposed on Gnagnarelli. Manolo Marziani, a bodybuilder whom prosecutors allege imported prohibited substances from Moldova, Thailand, Hong Kong, Germany, Holland, and Belgium, was also sanctioned with  a 15 year ban last year.


Investigations into the Altopack cycling team after the death of 21 year old team member Linus Rumšas in 2017. Italy’s anti-doping tribunal (TNA) has sanctioned Michele Viola, a former trainer at the team, with a 25 year ban. Viola was arrested in 2018 alongside Luca Franceschi and Elso Frediani, the owner and Directeur Sportif of the team. All three were accused of supplying drugs to cyclists as part of the investigation. Franceschi was sanctioned with a 30 year ban from 10 June 2020, and Frediani’s case will be heard on 22 February. Andrea del Nista, another former Directeur Sportif at the team, was sanctioned with an eight year ban in October last year.

Dr. Daniele Tarsi has also been sanctioned with a four year ban, NADO Italia announced. Dr. Tarsi was a doctor to many cycling teams and it was widely reported in 2018 that he was one of he suspects in the Altopack investigation, although he denied involvement.  He is currently Head of Healthcare at Spezia Calcio, which is competing in its first ever Serie A season.

Illegal/performance enhancing drugs network

Sonia Margiacchi has been sanctioned with an eight year ban, NADO Italia also announced. Margiacchi was sanctioned for trafficking, administration/attempted administration, and complicity. The 56 year old was arrested along with 20 other individuals in 2018, after police dismantled a network trading in illegal and performance enhancing drugs, reports Il Tirreno. Alessandro Fantoni, who operated alongside Margiacchi in selling performance enhancing substances, was also sanctioned with an eight year ban earlier this year.

Other sanctions

In addition, NADO Italia announced that Stefano Di Campli, who is unaffiliated to an Italian sporting federation, has been sanctioned with a four year ban for an anti-doping rule violation involving therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs). Andrea Borreca, also unaffiliated to a national sporting federation, was also sanctioned with a ten year ban for trafficking.

Gianni Panzarini has been sanctioned with a four year ban, after the Masters cyclist returned an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for erythropoietin (EPO), prednisone, and prednisolone at the Giro d’Italia Cyclocross event on 18 October last year. Another Masters athlete, Georgeta Muresan, was sanctioned with a six month ban following an AAF for betamethasone at the Italian Masters Championships on 10 October last year. 

Swimmer Alex Di Giorgio, who competed at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics, was also sanctioned with an eight month ban. Di Giorgio returned an AAF for ostarine on 13 September last year, during a national training camp. His ban will expire on 7 June. 

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