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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.

The delay with respect to a resolution in Ivan Basso’s case continues. According to Gazetta dello Sport, a decision may not be reached for several weeks yet, as CONI has not finished looking through the case papers. Basso has asked CONI to drop the case.

The case seems increasingly absurd, given the recent court order in Spain that none of the court documents from Operation Puerto may be used by the Spanish Cycling Federation in cases against any cyclists. The court has also rejected any additional access to court documents by the UCI.

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.

Brian Damsgaard, Danish anti-doping guru, is soon to join Team CSC. He is to be employed on the team to leverage his expertise on doping on the team testing. The preliminary deadline for his employment is October 5. The reason for the early deadline is so as to make it possible for Damsgaard to follow and monitor the riders over the off-season period.

Damsgaard’s employment heralds an interesting – and hopefully effective – new step in the fight against doping. The new anti-doping plan seems intended to work as follows:
– 500-1000 blood and urine tests over the year, distributed with 95% of the tests in the spring pre-season build-up, 4% in the autumn, and 1% in competition.
– Testing will include blood profiling and other extra-ordinary anti-doping initiatives. Riders will be sanctioned if there is any indication of doping (i.e., a positive test is not necessary; the team will act if any abnormalities appear).
– Close cooperation with the UCI and ADD (Anti-Doping Denmark). All suspicious tests will be forwarded to the relevant authorities.
– There should be transparency of the test measurements on the team. According to Damsgaard, the plan is that the test values of all riders will be made public – anonymously. In other words, anyone will have the chance to examine the Team CSC riders test values, although it will not be public who each rider is.

ADD has initially refused to cooperate with Team CSC, saying that to do so would be too expensive. They are however now reconsidering the offer, as Riis has pointed out that expenses will be covered by the team.

The plan is that Damsgaard himself will be an employee of CSC (the sponsor) itself; rather than an employee of Team CSC. He will be paid on a hourly basis, with a part of the salary being put into a research fund at Bispebjerg Hospital in Denmark.

Team CSC’s iniative with Brian Damsgaard seems very interesting, and may be just what the sport needs to restore faith in the system. It is to be hoped that this initiative, and those of T-Mobile will meet with success, and lead the way in controlling doping.

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