Wed 31 Jan 2007
This website has been archived and is no longer actively maintained.
Wed 31 Jan 2007
This website has been archived and is no longer actively maintained.
Sun 10 Dec 2006
This site will close on January 31.
I would like to note that this decision has nothing to do with any opinion I might have about the guilt or innocence of Ivan Basso. As far as I am concerned, he is innocent until proven otherwise. But the decision is, of course, Operation Puerto related and the hypocrisy of the sports governing organizations on the one hand, and the reactions of a lot of riders on the other.
We do not know whether Ivan Basso, Jan Ullrich, or any of the others accused in Operation Puerto doped or not. We do, however, know that someone – very likely quite a large number – of riders have doped. Despite this, many riders are pretending as if nothing happened this summer – no doubt hoping that if they lay low, the storm will eventually pass and we can get back to “business as usual” next year. It is incredibly disappointing to find that many riders seem to believe that everything is fine as it is, and seem to have no interest in working for a cleaner and fairer sport. This lack of reaction is particularly selfish and disappointing when it comes from riders who have been implicated in Operation Puerto, and thus have suffered both unjust treatment and ought to have an interest in cleaning up the sport.
At the same time, the sport’s governing authorities are leading the fight against doping in a manner which appears both ineffective and hypocritical. Apparently, riders are to be punished without trial, and rules that apply to one do not apply to others. The initiatives of the few (CSC and T-Mobile) are left unsupported by the sports governing bodies, who prefer to punish rather than prevent.
A while ago, I wrote two articles for DailyPeloton.com:
For me, Cycling lost its attraction the day it became obvious that even today, eight years after the Festina affair, systematic doping is still wide-spread in the peloton. I don’t believe that doping will ever be eradicated, but I do believe in a clean sport. Cycling is not a clean sport, and while I will work (where possible) for a clean sport, I will no longer run this webpage nor support the sport in other ways, until significant reforms are implemented.
This blog will no longer be updated, but will be archived on my personal domain for the foreseeable future.
Mon 4 Dec 2006
Basso prepares for the Giro-Tour double in 2007, as a row with his former employers at Team CSC looms. The disagreement stems over whether Basso did, or did not, offer Team CSC a DNA test against the blood from Operation Puerto, after Bjarne Riis recently commented that if Basso had offered a DNA profile, he would have been allowed to stay at Team CSC.
Basso claims that he did, commenting: “It was not this difference that ended our agreement; during the investigations of CONI I gave my word to give DNA. There where many things written in the press, but basically my relationship [with Riis] had changed.” (Ivan Basso back on the road – with Discovery Channel [CyclingNews])
But Brian Nygaard (PR boss at Team CSC) is surprised at that comment.. “Earlier, his lawyer has commented that Basso will never do a DNA test as long as he is defending him,” Nygaard said.
But Nygaard hints that for CSC, the situation around the DNA profile was critical. “For us, it is a question of whether you are willing to do everything to prove your innocence, or whether you have to be requested to do so.” According to the interpretation of several media, the supposed situation that Basso was hesitant to do a DNA, is therefore likely the reason for the break from CSC. This is supported by other comments from Nygaard:
“Simply from the fact that this discussion [about whether or not to do a DNA test] could even become relevant, both parties decided that it would be best not to continue our partnership,” Nygaard is quoted as saying.
Basso himself claims that his performance on the road will show whether or not he doped.
“Most people have been behind me in the four months that I was forcefully banned from racing. To all of them I want to say one thing: wait until I return to the major stages races to see what I’m capable of. It is the only possible way of showing that my implication (in Spain) was a total nonsense. My name has never appeared in this Spanish investigation,” Basso is quoted as saying.
Regardless of the situation, it seems the controversy of Operation Puerto will cast its shadows far into the 2007 season.
Wed 8 Nov 2006
It is now official that Ivan Basso will join Team Discovery Channel on a 2-year contract.
Mon 6 Nov 2006
Ever since the announcement that Ivan Basso would leave Team CSC, Bjarne Riis has kept himself out of the limelight. But returning this weekend from a vacation with his family, Riis finally gave an interview to the press.
“Whatever happens in the case, I lose. I lose. I have lost my credibility, gotten beat, risked losing my team, and I have lost the best Cyclist in the world,” Riis tells the Danish daily BT. “When he was acquitted, I knew what I had to do. Because the problem is that the case in Spain isn’t over, even if people seem to think so. We don’t know what will happen, although I fear that everything will simply end in nothing; that a decision is never reached.”
Bjarne Riis has been criticized in the media for not standing forward and explaining himself after the break with Ivan Basso, but Riis dismisses the criticism. He feels that such demands would never be put on the chief executive of a regular company, which is what he considers himself. Thus the Danish team owner refuses to comment the detailed reasons for his breaking the contract with Ivan Basso, although the interviewing journalist speculates (based on Riis’s behaviour) that a major motivating factor was to attempt to restore the credibility of Team CSC.
Another factor that was brought up in the interview was the personal cost the case has had for Riis. “I take so much time from my family,” Riis says. “I couldn’t defend it [keeping Basso] toward them. They are the most important people in my life. I don’t spend enough time with my family as it is, and if Ivan was to stay, it would have demanded even more effort and time; time, I would have had to take from my family. At some point, I have to say ‘enough'”.
Riis is dissatisfied with the fact that Ivan Basso can now continue, without hindrance, on another team and perhaps in the future win the Tour de France. He does not feel the case against Basso is closed while the Operation Puerto investigations are still ongoing. “I tried to encourage that there be more solidarity in the sport at the closure of the ProTour [i.e., that the teams present a united front]. But I have to face the fact that there is no such thing. Everyone is only thinking of themself.”
“I can only say that I have sent a clear signal to the world and to the Cycling community of where I stand on the matter. I feel it is my duty to do so, and I do so in my way. Then others will have to do so however they want.”
To rebuild the credibility of Team CSC, Bjarne Riis has intensified the anti-doping efforts on his team and plans to hire the renowned anti-doping researcher Rasmus Damsgaard (as previously mentioned on these pages). Riis is enthusiastic about Damsgaard’s plans, and doesn’t fear that the work of Damsgaard and intensified anti-doping measures will result in less results for Team CSC; saying that he will leave the sport if he turns out to be wrong.
“The cleaner the sport becomes, the better my team will become,” Bjarne Riis says. “That is my spark; it is what keeps me going.”
Tue 24 Oct 2006
Ivan Basso hopes that he will have the opportunity to return to Team CSC in the future.
“Bjarne and I parted as friends,” the former Team CSC star states in a recent interview with Danish daily Politiken. “And I hope that I will be able to return. We concluded that it would be best to part for the moment, but there is nothing that rules out that we may pick up our cooperation at a latter date.”
Ivan Basso also expresses understanding for the conduct of Bjarne Riis over the past couple of months. “I do not believe that Bjarne wanted to treat me poorly. He was forced to act as he had done. I know and understand that he has the well-being of the whole team to think off,” Basso comments. Basso admits that right after the suspension from the Tour de France, he felt very unfairly treated. “I feel that at the very least we (the riders accused) should have had the chance to let our lawyers review the case, before a decision of such significance for a rider be taken.”
Ivan Basso confirmed that he is still looking for a team, although he noted that if he were only interested in money, he would already have signed a contract. However, he is delaying the decision while studying the circumstances of the various teams he is considering.
Giovanni Lombardi, Basso’s teammate at Team CSC who is retiring after this season, has confirmed that he intends to start working as an rider agent in the future. Among the riders that he is likely to be representing are, in addition to Ivan Basso, also Franck and Andy Schleck.
Tue 24 Oct 2006
Persistent rumors are now sending Ivan Basso to the Discovery Channel team, despite earlier protestations by the team that they would not be interested in Ivan until he is cleared. Thus, several newspapers are reporting that Basso has already signed a contract, while others state that he will be receiving a contract offer in just a few days.
Meanwhile, Ivan Basso was monday feted in Rome, where he received his trophy for the victory in the Giro d’Italia. He used the opportunity to comment the exclusion from the Tour de France.
“It really hurt me,” Ivan Basso commented. “But I will have my vengeance next year when I ride both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France.” Basso also commented that he would announce his new team within the next couple of weeks, and confirmed that Discovery was one of the teams in the picture. Barloworld has also confirmed that it has given Basso an offer.
Wed 18 Oct 2006
In a press statement from Team CSC today, it has finally been made official.
Team CSC and Ivan Basso have decided to terminate their contract by mutual agreement.
â€œAfter all that has happened, especially this summer, Team CSC and Ivan Basso have agreed to part ways. It has been a very difficult decision, but both parties agree it is time to move on. We would like to take this opportunity to thank Ivan for his time with the team and for the great results he and the team have achieved together. At the same time, we wish him all the best for the future,â€ says Bjarne Riis.
Wed 4 Oct 2006
Despite still being suspended, Ivan Basso has been put on the start list of the Trofeo Citta di Borgomanero – the traditional end of season race of the Italian racing calender. He is set to compete with team mate and current World TT Champion Fabian Cancellara. Basso won the race last year.
According to some reports, the race organizers have stated that they do not have a confirmation from the team yet, but they are hoping that Basso’s case will be resolved before their race and that Team CSC will allow Basso to compete in the event.
Ivan Basso has asked that the case against him be dropped, after the case against Santiago Botero was dismissed by the Colombian Federation. Considering that Botero actually had admitted contact with Fuentes, whereas the only evidence linking Basso to Fuentes is a suspicious fax and a mention in a telephone conversation, it seems likely that the Italian Federation will follow suit.
And the positive news for Basso continue. In a recent interview, Bjarne Riis commented: “I still have contact with Ivan. He is still a part of the team, and I still have a two-year contract with him. We will wait and see whether he is acquitted, but the door is still open.”
Basso has repeatedly stated that he would remain at Team CSC when acquitted.
Tue 22 Aug 2006
In an honest interview with Danish daily Politiken, Bjarne Riis, for the first time since the doping controversy surrounding Ivan Basso started, casts doubt on Ivan Basso’s future at Team CSC.
Riis: “It is not only about the juridics. Ivan Basso must prove his innocence not only in court, but also to us. I find it difficult to imagine a future for Basso with CSC, unless he is cleared of all charges. Understood in the following way, that he has never been in contact with Fuentes, and it is not him who is on the doctors lists.”
P: “Do you believe Basso, when he says that he does not know Fuentes?”
Riis: “It is not so important, what I believe – the more critical issue is that it is [explicit remark] damning evidence, Basso is up against. As far as I am concerned, if Basso has been in any contact with Fuentes, then he has lied to me, and in doing so he has let down the team and the values for which we are fighting. And in that case, he is finished with CSC.”
P: “But if he is acquitted and does not receive a suspension, the situation will be different?”
Riis: “I am fighting to create a clean team and through it a clean sport of cycling; this is the goal of my work. And if there – even if Basso is acquitted – should be the slightest big of suspicion left, if will also put a cloud of suspicion on the team and myself. We can not live with that. We have enough problems with our credibility as it is is; yes, I in particular have big problems because of this case and the discovery of Tyler Hamilton’s huge doping misuse in 2003, and we have to fight to regain that. And the only way to do that is to have the right values and [to have] the right cyclists.”
Discussing Hamilton’s doping misuse, Riis says that he is saddened about the case, but he does not believe that the evidence can be contested; just as he feels the evidence referenced against Basso also looks back. He continues to express that he remains surprised that Basso would be involved in doping, and that up till this case, there had never been any cause for suspicion.
According Riis, Ivan Basso’s test results in the team were used as a “school-book” example of how a rider’s test results should look at a UCI seminar this spring.
Riis: “How would anyone believe that anything could be wrong? Basso’s tests have always been flawless.”
Riis: “I feel very bad about this entire case. This [Basso’s case] is the worst thing that could happen to me – it has ruined my credibility. That has to be corrected, and right not it is all uphill and against the wind.”
Riis has already taken the offensive in the battle to regain the credibility of Team CSC. In the same interview, he invites the experienced and internationally renowned Danish Researcher on Doping, Rasmus Damsgaard, the job as team doctor and consultant on Team CSC. “I hope he will agree, because both Team CSC and the sport needs his help. We need all of the constructive and forward-looking help that we can get,” Riis says. Brian Damsgaard has replied through the press that he is currently considering the offer.
Riis is also planning to make DNA-sampling (for anti-doping usages) a mandatory requirement for employment on his team, and is considering other initiatives to regain the team’s credibility. “We can not be satisfied with minimizing the suspicion; we have to completely eliminate it.”
“Those of us that have the ability to do something also have the duty to do so – and here I am thinking of the UCI as an organization, and myself as team owner. We have to be ready to take responsibility and take the consequences – we should not fill the debate with warm air, but with concrete action.”