RIIS STOPS BASSO FROM RIDING LOMBARDY
2006 Tour of Italy winner Ivan Basso, implicated in the massive anti-doping operation in Spain codenamed Operacion Puerto, has been told by the Italian Olympic Committee [CONI] he can race again.
But the good news for the Italian stops there: his team CSC told Basso yesterday [Thursday] during a three and a half hour meeting in Lugano, Switzerland that he cannot take part in the final ProTour event of the year, the Tour of Lombardy, on Saturday.
CONI had decided earlier this week that they could not find any reason to stop Basso, suspended by his team immediately prior to the Tour de France, from racing.
A Spanish judge’s recent decision that no evidence gathered in Puerto - the investigation which had led to Basso’s suspension from CSC - could be used against the implicated riders for possible bans or sanctions has enabled the CONI to give Basso the green light to ride again. CONI do reserve the right, however, to re-open the case should further evidence against Basso emerge, or the judge’s decision be reversed.
Basso, unsurprisingly, wanted to return to racing as soon as possible - and where better than in one of Italy’s biggest events, the Tour of Lombardy.
Third in the Italian ‘monument’ in 2004, Basso’s wishes for a highly symbolic return to racing have now been blocked by CSC’s team manager Bjarne Riis, for what Basso told the press were “technical reasons.”
“Bjarne told me it didn’t make sense to race the last event of 2006 because we had no idea what was going to happen in 2007.”
“He said it wasn’t because of the [ProTour] Ethics Code [which was why Basso had been suspended in the first place] but for technical reasons.”
“I’ll just have to go back to riding alone, on the roads around my home.”
“In any case, we hadn’t spoken for four months, so we had a lot of catching up to do.”
Basso’s strained relationships with CSC could well see the Italian moving on in 2007. Discovery Channel are widely reported to be the top favourite to sign the Italian, although other teams have criticised the American squad for allegedly negotiating with a rider whose future still remains unclear.
The UCI have responded to the CONI decision by saying they were “amazed.” that Basso was allowed to race again. A spokesman for cycling’s top body argued that it would have been better to wait for the outcome of an appeal by the Spanish Federation against the judge’s decision - something apparently due to happen within the next two weeks.