Over a decade after the 1998 Giro d’Italia and Tour de France champion Marco Pantani was found dead in a hotel room in Rimini, the public prosecutor from that town has reopened the case amid claims that the rider was murdered.

According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Pantani might not have taken an overdose of cocaine, as has long been believed, but rather could have been forced to take huge quantities of the substance and to have succumbed as a result.

The public prosecutor now suspects that the 34 year old might have been beaten and forced to drink cocaine while in the hotel room. Pantani’s family has long claimed foul play took place; according to a Professor Avato, the large amounts of the drug found in the rider’s body were only possible to achieve if the substance had been diluted in water.

Pantani won the Giro and Tour in 1998 and looked set to take the 1999 Giro, but was ejected from the race due to a haematocrit above the permitted maximum of 50%.

While he could have returned to racing after 15 days, he did not do so and missed the defence of his Tour title. He began using cocaine and while he was able to return in 2000 and win two stages in that year’s Tour, his career went downhill and he quit the sport in 2003.

Suffering from cocaine addiction, Pantani was found dead in a hotel room in Rimini on February 14 2004. It was long held that he had taken an overdose, but this latest news suggests there may be more to the case than was initially found.

In 2008 Fabio Carlino was convicted of supplying Pantani with the cocaine which killed him. He was sentenced to 4 years 6 months in prison, was fined €19,000 and was ordered to pay Pantani’s family compensation of €300,000.

However the conviction was overturned in 2011, with the court’s prosecutor general Oscar Cedrangolo saying that the excessive media publicity around the case had led to what he termed an “excessive attribution of responsibility” to Carlino and the other defendants.

It remains to be seen if the Rimini public prosecutor will be able to link the supposed murder to these or any other individuals.