Basso admits role in doping scandal

By ARIEL DAVID, Associated Press Writer Mon May 7, 7:03 PM ET

ROME - Giro d'Italia champion Ivan Basso admitted involvement in the Spanish doping scandal and is cooperating with sports authorities.

The Italian rider "widely acknowledged his responsibilities" in connection with Operation Puerto and offered "full cooperation," the Italian Olympic Committee said Monday.

Basso's lawyer, Massimo Martelli, said his client decided to "spill the beans because it was not possible for him to live out his passion, his work, cycling, in this way." Basso could face a long suspension and it was not immediately clear if his Giro title was in danger.

Basso's name turned up on a list of cyclists who allegedly had contact with a Spanish doctor accused of running a blood-doping clinic in Madrid.

Martelli said he could not disclose what Basso told the Italian committee prosecutor because the transcript was sealed. But the lawyer said Basso acknowledged "the moment has come" to speak. Martelli added that Basso will "plan his future around the fight against doping."

"I hope that his voice will not be a solitary one," Renato Di Rocco, president of the Italian Cycling Federation, told APTV. "It is a voice that comes from a prominent figure in this sport and this makes me feel optimistic about the future. I hope that his sacrifice will not be in vain."

Basso has been charged by the doping commission of the Italian committee with using or attempting to use a banned substance after sports authorities reopened an investigation into his alleged role in Operation Puerto.

The 29-year-old rider will not be implicating other riders in the investigation, Martelli said.

"This kind of activity was carried out individually," Martelli said by telephone. "He never saw or heard of other riders" being involved.

The Spanish investigation started last May when sports doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, coach Manolo Saiz and six other people were arrested in Madrid on suspicion of providing doping services to cyclists. More than 50 cyclists were implicated, and Basso, Jan Ullrich and seven other riders were excluded from last year's Tour de France.

Basso initially was cleared of involvement in October, but the Italian Olympic Committee reopened the case last month after reportedly obtaining bags suspected to contain his blood.

Basso ruled out defending his title in the Giro, Italy's top cycling event, which begins Saturday. He was barred by his Discovery Channel team two weeks ago, and he quit the team last week.

"I am disappointed and saddened by the events of the previous week," commented team sports director Johan Bruyneel. "Ivan was hired because we believed him to have been clean. When we granted his request to be released, we did so because he could no longer assure us of the outcome of his case. It is an unfortunate situation for us, but we are committed to running a clean team and I know we will continue to win races. This team was not built solely around Ivan."

Also Monday, American rider Tyler Hamilton and Joerg Jaksche were left off the preliminary list of riders for the Giro. Hamilton, a 2004 Olympic champion, recently completed a two-year ban for doping.


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