First Summit On Soccer, Athletics & Lou Gehrig’s Disease ** NIAF To Sponsor Summit in Avellino, Italy **


Contact:   Elissa Ruffino (NIAF) 202/939-3106 or

or Michele Gillen (CBS-WFOR-TV)

(Washington, DC – June 23, 2003) On June 30 and July 1, a renowned neurologist from the University of Miami School of Medicine and Italian physicians will meet in Avellino, Italy to examine Italian soccer players and other athletes suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease. The focus of the conference, which the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF) is sponsoring and organizing, is to establish a link between clinical and epidemiological studies of ALS internationally. Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), is a crippling motor-neuron disease.

In an exclusive CBS television news-Miami investigative report in May 2003, Italian magistrateRaffaele Guariniello revealed evidence of what he says is an eight -fold incidence of death from Lou Gehrig’s disease among Italian soccer players. Emmy Award winning journalist Michele Gillen, investigative correspondent at WFOR-TV (CBS-Miami), traveled across Italy to investigate his claims and interview players afflicted with the disease.

The summit is at the Greenpark Hotel Titino in Mercogliano (AV), in the province of Avellino, Italy. Mercogliano is the hometown of Adriano Lombardi, one of Southern Italy’s respected soccer players and former coach, who is struggling for his life with paralysis from the disease. Lombardi, whose story was told in the Gillen investigative report, is too ill to visit the U.S. for treatment and study. Therefore, Walter G. Bradley, D.M., F.R.C.P., Chairman of the Department of Neurology at the University of Miami and medical director UM Kessenich Family MDA ALS Center in Miami, is traveling to Avellino with Italian specialists to provide Lombardi with treatment, and initiate further study of other Italian soccer players suffering with the disease.

The heart wrenching expose’ by CBS attracted the attention of the National Italian American Foundation (NIAF), the premier ethnic organization for Italian Americans headquartered in Washington, DC. In the television series, the soccer players, some of whom were paralyzed with Lou Gehrig’s disease in their mid- 30’s, pleaded with the world to study them. They appealed both to help others, and for countries to begin their own research to investigate a potential link between soccer, athletics and Lou Gehrig’s disease.

During the summit, NIAF will award Dr. Bradley with the NIAF US/Italy “Fight for Life” Award for his work studying Lou Gehrig’s disease, his passion to find a key to a cure, and his compassion for the men and women suffering from it. Lombardi will receive the Primo Carnera Foundation’s “Champion of Spirit

Award.” The Primo Carnera Foundation is an international not-for-profit organization based in Miami, Florida, and Sequels, Italy named after Italian heavyweight boxing great, Primo Carnera.

June 19, 2003 marks the 100th birthday anniversary of the late baseball legend Lou Gehrig. Congressman Eliot Engel of New York has authored a House Resolution asking Members of Congress to honor Gehrig. The resolution is to raise the awareness of the devastating disease and to encourage people across the U.S. to join the fight against ALS.

Press are invited to attend a summit press conference and luncheon on July 1 at the Greenpark Hotel Titino, Via Loreto #9 , Mercogliano (AV), Italy. Phone: 011/39/0825788961. Please contact: Sabina Castelfranco at 011/39/3473609147 or Michele Gillen at