Death of cyclist Marco Pantani to be explored in latest series of BBC’s Sport’s Strangest Crimes

Comedian and cycling super-fan Hugh Dennis to host podcast series

The latest mystery to be explored in BBC Radio 5 Live’s podcast series Sport’s Strangest Crimes will be the death of Italian cyclist Marco Pantani at the age of just 34. 

Pantani, who nicknamed himself ‘The Pirate’, was found dead in his accomodation in Italy in 2004, with coroners initially finding that he died of a cocaine overdose. However, this verdict has been repeatedly questioned, with Pantani’s family suggesting that he was murdered and many claiming the involvement of the Italian mafia.

The new podcast series will explore these allegations with interviews from mafia experts, journalists, historians, the police and fellow cyclists like Matt Rendell and Phil Liggett. The ten-episode series, which will be available as a boxset on BBC Sounds from 22 June, will be narrated by comedian and cycling super-fan Hugh Dennis.

“'Would the mafia really kill a cyclist?' has to be one of the strangest questions ever asked in cycling… and yet, ten episodes later, here we are,” said Dennis. “Saddle in – sorry – for one of the craziest stories you'll ever hear, about the mysterious death of one of the most incredible climbers the sport has ever seen.”

Other cases that have been explored in BBC’s Sport’s Strangest Crimes series include Spygate on the 2007 Formula 1 scandal, narrated by DJ Pete Tong, The Trillion Dollar Conman on how fraudster Russell King stole a football club, narrated by journalist Samira Ahmed, The Real Story of Shergar the Super Horse who was kidnapped and killed in 1983, narrated by Vanilla Ice, and Allen Stanford - The Man Who Bought Cricket, narrated by Greg James.

Investigative podcast series have become an increasingly popular genre for the BBC, having reported that the second series of I’m Not A Monster with investigative journalist Josh Baker on the life story of Shamima Begum was the most-listened to podcast on the platform in Q1 2023. Other popular investigative podcasts from the same period included Gangster: The Story Of John Palmer, Love Bombedand Assume Nothing: Typhoid Mary.