Mon 6 Nov 2006
Comments Off on Riis: Whatever happens in the case, I lose
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.”