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Operation Puerto

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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:

The Reason Why: A survey of 10 years of doping and innuendo: 1997 to 2006
Cycling’s Winter of Discontent

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.


Fans against doping


Agency for Cycling Ethics


This blog will no longer be updated, but will be archived on my personal domain for the foreseeable future.

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.

Ivan Basso’s lawyer recently released a strong statement regarding Basso and the media’s comments on his involvement in Operation Puerto. In it he states Basso’s intention to fight for his reputation legally.

“The recently repeated judgements and comments in the Italian and international media regarding Operación Puerto, especially regarding Ivan Basso, require a strong and definitive reaction. The reality is that these opinions and statements are in direct contrast to the results of all the judicial and sporting justice cases that have happened.

“The result of these cases is that Ivan Basso has been cleared of any supposed violation of rules, regulations or law and that Basso currently has no pending cases criminal or civil cases against him regarding doping. And that any declaration for the necessity of blood tests for DNA or other values we consider to be an illegal and inadmissible intrusion to his private life. Thus, any declaration that Ivan Basso that says that there are limits or conditions to prevent Basso for racing for a “ProTour” team or participate in “ProTour” competitions are discriminatory and against the current rules,” Martelli stated.

In doing so, Martelli seems to be implying that Basso and the Discovery Channel team would fight against any demands by the UCI or AIGCP that Basso should submit DNA to ride in the ProTour. In making this statement, Basso joins a number of other Professional riders that have been highly critical of the proposed DNA tests such as Alejandro Valverde and Paolo Bettini.

The UCI is moving ahead with plans on a DNA-testing policy this friday; it remains to be seen what the results of these deliberations will be, with the Cycling world seeming to be increasingly divided on the matter.

Today’s L’Equipe contains an extensive interview with Ivan Basso.

In it he talks about his hopes and plans for his future, and also discusses the much requested DNA test.

Basso states that he has offers from many teams, but that he would prefer to stay at Team CSC. “It’s my team. I think I contributed largely to its structuring.”

Regarding his relationship with Riis, Basso said he had been very dissappointed right after the start of the Tour de France, but that he had come to accept the decision. Of their relationship now, he said: “We are in the situation of couple that has had a few problems and that’s trying to put the pieces back together.”

On the archiving of the case against him, Basso commented that CONI anti-doping commission president Franco Cosenza did not do this “on the simple declaration of the Madrid judge, who said that the documents of the Guardia Civil could not be used. (He) did not base his decision on the 39 pages transmitted in July to the Tour organisation, but on a much more complete dossier, to which the UCI added its arguments.”

On why Basso has so far chosen not to underfo a DNA test, Basso commented: “My attorney would not have been opposed to the principle of DNA research, but the situation wasn’t clear enough,” he said. “There is too much confusion around the investigation. We don’t know if we can trust the state of conservation of the blood bags seized by the investigators.” He added that it was the recommendation of his attorney not to do the DNA test (which he of course will follow).

Basso remains convinced he will return to the Tour and win it. “I even take bets on it,” Basso commented although he has yet to be invited to the presentation of the Tour de France, scheduled October 27 at the Palais des Congrès in Paris.

It is worth noting that the UCI has announced that it may take up to 10 months before it decides whether or not to appeal the Operation Puerto cases to CAS. This is due to the refusal of the Spanish Courts in releasing material from the case to UCI. In a comment on this, Erik Breukink of Rabobank called the delay “unacceptable” and called upon the UCI to make a clear decision on the riders involved in Operation Puerto.

Team CSC boss, Bjarne Riis, has said he does not want to be rushed into taking a decision about Basso.

“The decision process is going on internally in the team. These are very important decisions; perhaps the most important decision in the team’s history,” Riis comments. “This is serious talk, and we need some peace and quiet to do it.

“I know there are lots of opinions about this, and lots of interests, but we need some peace and quiet so that we can think the right thoughts, and make the right decision.”

Team CSC teammate Kurt Asle Arvesen has backed Ivan Basso throughout the process, and expressed his happiness that the case had been shelved. In an interview with Norwegian TV, Arvesen said that the riders on the team were pleased with the news, as this was what they had hoped for. However, he also expresses understanding with the decision, should Team CSC and Basso decide to part ways.

“It is possible that may be the best decision,” Arvesen ended the interview.

“First and foremost, we are happy that there has been taken a decision in the case, which we can now digest, and determine what our decision will be,” Brian Nygaard, press spokesman for Team CSC said today to Danish TV2.

“There has been a meeting between Ivan and Bjarne Riis. The result of that is that they have now started to discuss Ivan’s
future on the team, and they will soon make a decision about that.” Bjarne Riis had earlier said that Basso would have to prove his innocence of any connection to the doping doctor Eugemiano Fuentes, and according to Nyholm, that is still relevant.

“Yes, that requirement is still on the table. It is also the main issue, from our point of view. We hope to get the UCI out of the bushes, so that we can get as good an overview over the case as possible, and then take a decision based on that. So for the moment he remains suspended, and then we will decide whether he figures in the team or not.”

The journalist question whether it will be sufficient for CSC if he is acquitted in court.

“We have no comments to that at the moment. Naturally, the solution to be found must also be one that Ivan accepts, and which is legally defensible. Ultimately, however, it depends on whether we wish him to continue on the team or not.

“Basso will not start at the Giro di Lombardia, and that is because it is not yet decided whether he has a future on the team, and until we have a final decision on that, there is no point in having him ride.”

“My goal now is to get back to winning bike races,” Ivan Basso commented in Gazzetta dello Sport, after the case against him was dropped by CONI. “I want to win the Giro or the Tour, and remove all doubt. The fans will not be satisfied with the case being closed, they want to see me win again like I did in May.

“I have not done anything that I need to feel bad about, and I do not need to defend myself or prove anything. My victory in the Giro d’Italia was not a big surprise, it was the result of four years were I was among the best at the Tour de France.” This statements seems to clash with earlier statements from Team CSC, which were of the opinion that Basso should prove his innocence beyond reasonable doubt.

Asked about the Giro di Lombardia, Basso commented: “No, I will not be participating. I have been acquitted, but Riis has decided that for the time being it would be best for me not to race the Lombardia. I am very dissappointed about this. Bjarne told me that it is not because of the ethical code, but a purely technical decision. I have consistently trained to be ready to race as soon as my suspension ends, but maybe it is a bit too early, with only two days until Lombardy.”

“I will meet Bjarne on monday. As expected, it is not easy to put the pieces of the puzzle together again. It has been hard. Definitely. We have not spoken together for four months. Before this, we spoke together every day,” says Basso.

The day after Ivan Baso’s acquittal by CONI, speculations have once again taken speed regarding Ivan Baso’s future.

The team sponsor, CSC, has expressed satisfaction with the judgement. “It is very positive that CONI has finally come down with a verdict. Now it is important to see what will be the reaction of the UCI. It is important that we have a quick resolution on this matterand get on, and this is a step in the right direction,” according to CSC’s Nordic representative Marcus Kraft. “Then Ivan Basso will be able to know what he has to deal with, Team CSC will know what it has to deal with, and we as a sponsor can know what is cycling and what is doping.”

Kraft is careful to state that although the sponsor is kept informed by Riis, they will not be putting pressure on the Team to either keep or fire Basso. “It is Bjarne’s decision whether he dares to trust Basso enough to keep him on the team. We will not demand or require anything.”

Team CSC itself has still not come out with an official reaction to the acquittal.

According to media reports, Ivan Basso visited Bjarne Riis in the latter’s Swiss home yesterday evening. According to these reports, Riis refused Basso’s request to ride at the Giro di Lombardia this weekend – a refusal that Italian media believe will have made the reportedly chilly relations between Riis and Basso sub-zero. As a result, many media are today reporting that Basso will be leaving CSC after this season.

Opinion: Any reports about the relationship between Basso and Riis should be taken with a large grain of salt right now. Reporters have been writing Basso “off” Team CSC ever since the affair started, and there is no reason for believing these reports any more than earlier ones. Not putting Basso on the Giro di Lombardia team would be a practical move from the point of view of Basso and the team; the media attention Basso would receive at the race would benefit neither Basso nor the team, and waiting until next year with a return to the big stage would hopefully allow Basso to build up to the new season in peace; if he stays at Team CSC. The actual decision probably won’t be known until Team CSC make their official statement on the case (if even then).

In a press statement today, the anti-doping comittee of the Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano (CONI), has officially recommended that all charges in the blood doping case against Ivan Basso be dropped.

The communique from CONI read, “…CONI, within the limits granted by the international law cfr. att. 182-185-224 and following UCI Antidoping Regulations, has decided to archive the actions against Mr Basso.” Further stating that, “in case there is more evidence, even from a third party, [the case] could be re-opened for disciplinary procedures.”

The decision, then rests with the Italian Cycling Federation which – in principle – does not have to follow the recommendation. Italian Cycling Federation president Renato di Rocco however said in a statement he was “satisfied” with the decision, indicating that the federation would drop the case.

Waiting in the wings, is the threat that the UCI may take the case to CAS. Initial comments from the Danish UCI member is that he expects the case will be taken to CAS, as this is what the UCI has said it will do all along.

Basso comments the decision as follows: “I am pleased with the news. I am ready for the final race of the season, the Giro di Lombardia this weekend, but first I will have to talk with Bjarne Riis.”

“We are delighted with the result,” Basso’s lawyer Massimo Martelli said Thursday in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “It’s the best possible outcome and we hope it stops here.” Martelli said that Basso was to meet “immediately” with Danish team CSC, which suspended him in July, to decide his future. “All my client wants to do is get back to racing as soon as possible,” Martelli said.

According to an article printed in Gazetta dello Sport, Ivan Basso may make his comeback at the Giro di Lombardia this saturday. According to the newspaper, CONI will thursday acquit Ivan Basso of wrong doing with respect to involvement in Operation Puerto.

The Spanish judge, Carmelo Jimenez Segado who is leading the investigation into Operation Puerto has sent CONI a statement wherein he makes it clear that none of the information in Operation Puerto can at the moment be used for any tiral in Italy. In addition, it is said that CONI has not been able to find proof to link the codename “Birillo” to Ivan Basso. This leaves an acquittal as the only logical alternative.

So far there has been no comments from Team CSC about the rumors.

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