PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM
CSC spokesman Brian Nygaard said tonight his team "saw no need to release a statement on what is just a meaningless sentence in a Spanish magazine" - referring to a report in Spanish periodical Interviu which links Ivan Basso to under-suspicion doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.
In a detailed expose on the "Operacion Puerto" doping inquiry in Wednesday, Interviu alleged the names of both Basso and Giro runner-up Jos Enrique Gutierrez were cited in telephone conversations between Fuentes and his associates.
In one conversation apparently recorded during the Giro, Liberty Seguros boss Manolo Saiz asks Fuentes: "Are you taking it to Basso, too?". Fuentes doesn't respond but, according to Interviu, Spanish investigators have already concluded that the "it" in question is frozen blood.
Basso, however, has strongly denied any ties with Fuentes. "There's always someone or something ready to cast a shadow over what's most beautiful: I'm going to have to get used to it ," Basso said at the weekend in relation to attempts to link him to the scandal.
The references to Gutierrez are slightly less ambiguous. "You need to send the meal to the Buffalo," an unspecified interlocutor tells Fuentes in one exchange during the Giro. 'The Buffalo' is Gutierrez's nickname. And "the meal" is a codeword for "frozen blood" - at least that's what the investigators reportedly assume. But Gutierrez said yesterday that he was "unworried" by the allegations and had a "clear conscience".
Interviu says that Liberty Seguros riders Michele Scarponi and Unai Osa are also mentioned - referred to by their code-names "Zapatero" and "Uno" respectively - though in neither case is the dialogue incriminating. One caller to Fuentes reports that Scarponi is frustrated with his team at the Giro, while Osa "isn't going too well".
Interviu claims Santiago Botero, Oscar Sevilla and banned former Vuelta winner Roberto Heras are also all under investigation. In recent days, Sevilla has informed his T-Mobile team that he has visited Fuentes in the past, prompting the German outfit to ask all of its riders to submit to an embargo on the Spanish doctor. Phonak - home of Botero and Gutierrez - has already opened an internal investigation after it became "aware that some of its athletes have been mentioned in relation to the doctor Fuentes case."
Hidden camera footage is also proving key to the investigation, Interviu reports. Liberty's Angel Vicioso was one of the first riders to be implicated by the Spanish media, reportedly on the basis of video footage taken outside Fuentes's apartment cum laboratory in Calle Zurbano, Madrid. Recordings from May 12-15 reportedly show a steady flow of traffic in and out of this and other properties in which police allegedly found large quantities of doping products when they carried out searches last week.
As the cycling world braced itself for more allegations on Thursday afternoon, one of the five men detained as part of the investigation last week, Jose Ignacio Labarta, resigned from his position as directeur sportif of the Comunitat Valenciana team.