Ivan Basso has been suspended by the Discovery Channel team following the reopening of an Italian investigation into whether he had links with Operacion Puerto. The team issued a statement saying that it “has requested that Italian rider Ivan Basso not compete pending further information in a new investigation coming out of Italy.” Basso will therefore not race in today’s Fleche Wallonne, and his participation in the Giro d’Italia is also in doubt. He has been asked to appear in front of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) on May 2nd. CONI announced on Tuesday that an Italian public prosecutor wanted to examine certain blood bags that were seized by the Spanish Guardia Civil during raids on establishments belonging to Drs Eufemiano Fuentes and Jose Merino Batres last year. The bags, labelled “Birillo” and with the number 2, are alleged to belong to Ivan Basso. The Italian has always denied any involvement with Dr Fuentes and his associates. The case is similar in many respects to the German fraud investigation into Jan Ullrich. German prosecutors recently matched Ullrich’s DNA to that in nine Puerto blood bags, including those labelled “Jan” and number 1. In his defence, Ullrich’s lawyers said that they believed the bags had been manipulated, and in any case, this was not proof that Jan had blood doped. Ullrich, like Basso, also denied ever having any contact with Dr Fuentes. Discovery defends signing The team defended its signing of last year’s Giro winner, saying that last year, CONI found “no evidence of any wrongdoing” against Basso in its initial Puerto-related investigation. “Additionally, the Spanish Cycling Federation closed all disciplinary investigations, announcing that all riders implicated were free to compete. Basso was subsequently signed to the Discovery Channel squad after these findings were announced.” At the time, most of the other ProTour teams felt that Discovery had broken the spirit of their agreement, which was that no team should sign any rider implicated in Puerto. Discovery Channel’s team manager Johan Bruyneel also expressed his support for Basso. “We continue to stand behind Ivan and intend to cooperate with all parties involved until there is closure,” he said. “It is unfortunate that this is now occurring, however, I have spoke to Ivan and although frustrated he agrees and understands with the decision we have taken.” Want more? Check out Procycling’s Dan Friebe’s blog, Basso in the dog house. Got a comment? Discuss this in the Procycling forum.
Ivan Basso may not be racing in the Giro d’Italia, as the Italian Olympic Committee has reopened it