Italian cyclist Ivan Basso has admitted his links with Dr Eufemiano Fuentes – the doctor at the centre of the Spanish ‘Operacion Puerto’ blood-doping investigation in Madrid, Spain – but has denied doping and using blood transfusions.
Speaking in a press conference in Milan on Tuesday lunchtime, Basso insisted he will make a comeback after his eventual ban, and denied knowing about the involvement of other riders.
?It was only attempted doping. I?ve never taken doping products during my career or used blood transfusions,? Basso claimed.
?I decided to hold a press conference because I wanted to make sure there isn?t any confusion about what is written and reported. Some people described me as a
grass or someone who will help with the investigation but I want to clarify that nobody has ever asked me about other people. I also didn?t know about other riders or athletes involved.?
?I?ll serve my ban and then I?ll make a comeback. I?ll know how to make myself accepted in the peloton. My collegues have supported me and you can win honestly like I?ve always done.?
“I decided it?s right I accept my responsibilities towards my family who have shared my decision. It was a moment of weakness and I know that attempted doping is considered the same as actual doping. I?ll serve my ban and then I?ll come back to the job I?ve always loved.?
Basso won the Giro d’Italia last year by 9.13 minutes, winning three stages, but has been dogged by allegations ever since. When he was pulled out of the 2006 Tour de France on the eve of the race he vehemently denied any wrongdoing, and now his latest claims of ‘attempted doping’ seem hard to believe.
His former team, CSC, parted company with him at the end of last season, only for Lance Armstrong’s Discovery Channel team to sign him several weeks later, a decision that rightly upset every other team in the ProTour.
Basso left the Discovery Channel team last week when the investigation re-opened and now faces a lengthy ban from the sport. According to UCI and ProTour rules he faces at least a two-year ban, and a four-year ban from riding for a ProTour team.
Rumours are circulating that Basso will make a plea for a back-dated, or reduced ban, but the Italian has already raced this year, at the Tour of California and Tirreno-Adriatico, and UCI President Pat McQuaid has moved quickly to say this will not be acceptable.
Although Operacion Puerto was shelved by the Spanish investigators earlier this year, citing a lack of evidence against Fuentes, the German and Italian authorities pursued both Jan Ullrich and Basso, the highest profile riders to be named in the case that has damaged cycling’s image over the past 12 months. Five Spanish riders named in the investigation are still riding for ProTour teams.