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Ivan Basso won't be returning to racing in Saturday's Tour of Lombardy despite being given the go-ahead to resume competition by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) on Thursday. CSC team manager Bjarne Riis has decided to delay Basso's return to racing after 105 days out following the Italian's implication in the Puerto affair.
Basso told La Gazzetta dello Sport, "I'm not going to ride. Now I am a free person but Riis has decided it would be better if I didn't do the Tour of Lombardy. I was really hoping to, and I regret I can't. I've been training with the objective of racing as soon as the situation was resolved. But it perhaps happened too quickly, just two days before Lombardy."
Basso added that he had tried to persuade Riis to let him ride, but the Danish team manager had insisted on him waiting. "He told me it wasn't because of the ethical code, but was a sporting decision. He told me: 'As we don't know what is going to happen in 2007, it would make little sense for you to ride in the last race of this season for CSC.' That's what he decided, and he's the one in charge."
Basso has been linked with a move to Discovery Channel despite having a contract tying him to CSC until 2008. However, relations between the Italian and his current team are reported to have cooled considerably in recent months. Basso admitted he and Riis had not talked to each month much during the last four months having previously spoken to each other almost every day. He referred to that time as "four hellish months", and that could well have an effect on the talks he has with Riis next Monday.
The 2006 Giro winner stated he had nothing to be ashamed about and told Gazzetta he had been encouraged by the degree of support he had received during his time out of racing. "A lot of people have been encouraging when I've been out training, even more than when I won the Giro," he claimed.
As to requests from many within the sport including Riis, that he submit to DNA testing to assess whether or not he was involved in the blood doping ring being investigated in Spain, Basso commented: "There are laws and steps that have to be respected. I will explain everything when the reasons for my sentence are explained."
Meanwhile, the International Cycling Union has expressed its unhappiness with the shelving of Basso's case by the CONI. UCI press chief Enrico Carpani has said that the correct procedures had not been followed, which left an element of doubt hanging over the Italian still.
In addition, Roger Legeay, one of two representatives of the pro teams on the ProTour Council, has added his voice to those asking riders implicated in the Puerto case to give DNA samples so that they can be cleared or otherwise. "200 bags of blood have been confiscated [in the Puerto inquiry]. That is material proof," Legeay told L'Equipe. "We need to know if that blood belongs to any riders implicated. It is down to the riders to authorise the UCI to provide their DNA to the Spanish judge. This is what the judge asked at the start of the affair."
Another of the riders implicated in the affair, Paco Mancebo, is unlikely to ride for the Ag2r team again as a result of his link to the case. "We made a mistake in signing him because he was linked to doping before he joined us," Ag2r team manager Vincent Lavenu told L'Equipe. "We were not involved but we are paying the price, but I don't want the public to think we are complicit." Lavenu is trying to negotiate the rescission of Mancebo's contract which runs to the end of 2007.
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