Italian cyclist Ivan Basso, who was suspended for two years in June 2007 for his implication in the Operation Puerto scandal, has signed a two-year contract for 2009 and 2010 with Liquigas, the Italian team said on Thursday.
The 30-year-old Basso is allowed to ride competitively from October 24, 2008 because when he was originally banned on June 15 last year, he had already been temporarily suspended for 243 days.
Liquigas president Paolo Dal Lago said: "Ivan Basso has served his suspension with dignity and has maintained a responsible, calm attitude characterised by the seriousness which has won over the public and his fellow professionals."
Basso won the 2006 Tour of Italy and finished on the Tour de France podium in 2004 and 2005. Looks like the Italian will have to trade in his new custom titanium Seven for a shiney lime-green Cannondale.
To win again
Basso told La Gazzetta dello Sport that his aim for 2009 was "to quickly become the winning Basso again".
"It's been so long since I've raced and all my rivals have progressed a lot," said the 2006 Giro winner and runner-up in the 2005 Tour de France. "After three months racing I will know if I can hope to win the Giro again. But in my heart I'm convinced of it."
Basso said his character had been changed by "the ordeal" he'd been through.
"For me Operation Puerto is the past even if it will always remain like a stain on my character. I had two choices (after his suspension) - to finish in a clinic for depression, or worse, break up my family, or roll up my sleeves."
Basso said he was under no illusions about his return to the peloton.
"Some will take it well, others less so and some not at all. It's justified. But there are so many riders who have been suspended and who have returned to ride normally. I have the right to as well.
"What is important is to have the right attitude. I'm putting the past behind me and starting from zero. My place after two years has changed. I'm no longer among the frontrunners. I have to show that I can come back."
Click here for a recent Basso interview with Cyclingnews reporter Kirsten Robbins.
© BikeRadar & AFP 2008