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Dauphiné Libéré
Photo ©: Sirotti

Latest Cycling News for May 8, 2007

Edited by Gregor Brown

Basso: "I am Birillo"

Ivan Basso with his lawyer, Massimo Martelli,
Photo ©: AFP
Click for larger image

Fighting against rivals like Lance Armstrong, Damiano Cunego and Gilberto Simoni for hours in the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia did nothing to prepare Ivan Basso for the Rome inquisition. Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) antidoping prosecutor Ettore Torri put the 29 year-old between a rock and a hard place that forced a desired confession.

"Yes, I am Birillo. It was me that suggested to be called this way," said the former Discovery Channel rider, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. After months of denials to any links with Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes and his offices that were raided in Operación Puerto Ivan Basso revealed that the name 'Birillo' that appeared on bags of blood sequestered were of significance. Since late last June, he had denied that this name was the name of his dog.

Torri had presented Basso with two distinct tones. He showed Basso that CONI was unwilling to waiver with its new pieces of evidence that it received by persistence. "We kept knocking on its [Spanish magistrate] door and at the end they opened. It is sending the materials to us in Italy," said Torri in April. He contrasted this strong stance with an escape path for Basso; confess and maybe CONI and the Italian cycling federation (FCI) will go easier on its punishment.

Yesterday, May 7, Basso signed ten pages that were prepared by CONI. It is not known exactly what is in those ten pages beside that part of it included an admission to a relationship with Fuentes and his collaborators, not all Spanish. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Basso said that he did it all in Madrid and did not list names of other riders but over the next days more information could be revealed. Such as, what was the path that led Basso to Fuentes?

Basso indicated that he did not re-inject blood for the 2006 Giro, and that it was to be used for the 2006 Tour, which he was barred from racing. However, the proof that contradicts earlier statements could lead CONI to believe that he is simply trying to protect his Giro victory. An intercepted SMS from Basso's number to Fuentes' reveals that there was a good level understanding without saying many words "Everything is fine, talk soon."

Spanish investigators help CONI's case

Basso last race was the Castilla y Leon, March 30
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

It was through the help of the Spanish magistrate that Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) antidoping prosecutors Franco Cosenza and Ettore Torri closed in on Ivan Basso. The first round of hearings in October 2006 were shelved but, after additional evidence from Madrid, the second round in April 2007 was successful in persuading Ivan Basso to sign an agreement to confession.

The circumstantial evidence meant CONI was able to present a strong case against Basso. Listed are some of the key factors that led to Basso signing CONI's ten-page confession document.

1. The code name 'Birillo' that appeared on the June 27, 2006, Guardia Civil dossier. This document was a product of the investigation known as Operación Puerto (stared May 23, 2006, in Madrid) and in it Birillo was linked with the number '2.' Basso had historically denied Birillo as being the name of his dog, he insisted in his original CONI summons that his dog's name was 'Tarello'.

2. Two telephone recordings from May 13 and 14 made by DS Ignacio Labarta to Fuentes. "Birillo had arrived with Simoni at sixteen seconds," was said on May 13 according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. This referred to Giro d'Italia stage seven, won by Rik Verbrugghe, where Basso finished 16 seconds back with Gilberto Simoni, Davide Rebellin and Serguei Gonchar. The next day another recording, "A certain Ivan Basso won." Basso was now first overall with José Enrique Gutierrez (Phonak) second. "Friend, you have... a first and a second."

3. A fax, outlined in page 15 of the dossier, that was sent from Fuentes to Nelson Giraldo Flores (in Colombia) in the days leading up to the "festival Mayo" (or Giro d'Italia). Fuentes wrote, "As per our agreement, I am sending a list of collaborators and participants in the festival that takes place in May;" going on to ask Colombian Flores for "help and collaboration." It listed riders Basso, Marco Serrano, Michele Scarponi, Gutierrez and Jan Ullrich (spelled with one "l" in the fax) without the use of code names.

4. An agenda with a schedule of blood extractions and transfusions since 2004. In the agenda the pseudonyms 'Birillo' and '2' are used.

5. Payments in 2004 of around €35,000 and another €6000 for the freezing the blood (or "gastos de Siberia"), and an advance payment of €70,000 in 2006 'to be defined individually'; there was also a message received from Fuentes in Italian which talks of a Zurich bank account.

Guardia Civil intercepted messages from Basso to Fuentes after the 2006 Giro.

7. The analyses of blood, which could have been done in November 2005 in Madrid, with haematologist Merino Batres, a collaborator of Fuentes. The Spanish Guardia Civil suspect that the cyclist visited Madrid at least three times but he had always denied being there.

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'

May 18, 2009 - Valverde to start Catalunya
May 15, 2009 - Valverde not welcome in Denmark
May 14, 2009 - Spanish federation wants proof in Valverde case
May 13, 2009 - Spanish Olympic Committee defends Valverde
May 12, 2009 - Valverde responds to sanction
May 11, 2009 - Italian tribunal delivers Valverde two-year suspension
May 8, 2009 - Valverde case: Italian Olympic Committee defends Torri
May 7, 2009 - Valverde to take legal action against CONI prosecutor
May 5, 2009 - WADA and Spanish federation join CONI and UCI on Valverde
May 1, 2009 - International Cycling Union joins in on Valverde's hearing in Italy

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of Operación Puerto

Discovery Channel "surprised"

By Susan Westemeyer

Basso's lawyer Massimo Martelli and Johan Bruyneel in 2006
Photo ©: Gregor Brown
(Click for larger image)

Discovery Channel Team has declared itself to be "surprised," "disappointed and saddened" by Ivan Basso's disclosure that he was involved with Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, "prior to being signed as a member" of the team. Directeur Sportif Johan Bruyneel called it "an unfortunate situation" for the team.

"I was quite surprised that Basso has now confirmed that he had in fact been involved with Dr. Fuentes," said Discovery Channel team general manager Bill Stapleton, distancing himself from the rider who left the team earlier this month. "He assured us that he was not a party to the allegations surrounding him and we required him to sign a contract stating he would provide his DNA if asked.

"As I stated prior, we did our due diligence prior to signing Ivan. Both the CONI and FCI had cleared him to race and we received assurances that he was not involved," he continued. "We did our homework on the case and this is now an issue for Basso and CONI to determine."

The team's statement, released on Monday evening, stressed that the team has a "no tolerance" antidoping policy, and that "no rider has ever had a positive test during the 12 seasons the team has competed."

Bruyneel said that he was "disappointed and saddened by the events of the previous week. 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," Bruyneel added. "This team was not built solely around Ivan."

Bugno: Teams need to pay

Gianni Bugno explains
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
(Click for larger image)

"This changes nothing," said two-time World Champion Gianni Bugno in regards to Ivan Basso's agreement with the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) to confess. "My valuation of Basso remains unchanged, and it clearly confirms that it is the cyclists who always pay the price," said the Italian to

Bugno's comments seemed to be directed at Basso's previous engagement with Bjarne Riis' Team CSC, since Basso only competed in a few events with the Discovery Channel team. "Is it possible that the teams and those who share a room with him [Basso's team-mates] don't know anything?

"It amazes me how this thing happens always with a few days before the Giro d'Italia. Basso had the courage to admit to his mistakes but in the best moments of his career no one spoke a word," continued Bugno, a secretary of the Association of Professional Cyclists (CPA).

"Operación Puerto? It is stupid that we still talk only of cycling, seeing how on the list there are others from various sport disciplines."

Reactions to Basso

By Susan Westemeyer

Various members of the cycling community have expressed their views on Ivan Basso's signed confession that he was a client of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, according to, ranging from calls for further confessions to support for the Italian rider.

Francesco Moser, head of the rider's union and himself a former pro rider, said, "With his back to the wall, he could no longer deny it.... Now we have the chance to completely open up the Puerto affair. Now all the names must be delivered from Spain. After the Ullrich case, we can now really explain the whole affair. I hope the riders understand today that an era has ended."

"This should be a lesson and perhaps an example for other suspects," said Rolf Aldag, Sport Director at Team T-Mobile. "The public pressure surely played a part in Basso's co-operation."

Most of the voices out of Italy showed support for Basso and promised help for his future. "It is important not to leave Ivan alone now. He is a good guy and not a rascal," said Italian national coach Franco Ballerini. "Basso has accepted his responsibility, but he is not the only one responsible. He will have to pay for his mistakes, that is OK, but he is not a gangster."

"I believe in his ability to survive a difficult situation like this," said Gerolsteiner Giro captain Davide Rebellin, who also looked forward to the upcoming race. "Without him, the Giro will be more open than in the past."

The Giro organiser, Angelo Zomegnan, also praised Basso, while considering the effect on his race. "Ivan did a brave thing. Now we have to give him some peace and quiet. Right off I don't see his decision having any effect on the upcoming Giro."

Basso has at least one offer, if he decides -- and is allowed -- to return to the professional peloton, from Ivano Fanini, of Amore e Vita, who has in the past signed and supported riders who have done their time for doping. "This is an historical moment for Italian cycling," he proclaimed. "For the first time, an active champion in the person of Ivan Basso had broken cycling's Omerta. That is a big step forward and a turning point. Before this it wasn't possible to admit to doping. In this sport, riders and others must obey the law of silence, like in a sect. They had to remain silent even in the face of the evidence -- that was the system."

Di Rocco praises CONI's battle

Angelo Zomegnan and Renato di Rocco
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

"Ivan has done exactly what was asked of Pantani," said Italian cycling federation (FCI) President Renato DI Rocco. He referred back to the case against Marco Pantani and believed that Ivan Basso has done what the late-cyclist could not. Yesterday, Basso signed a 10-page confession that was presented to him by Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) antidoping prosecutor Ettore Torri.

DI Rocco now hopes for more riders to step forward, "Not only Ivan Basso."

He is pleased with the work of CONI. He believes that it showed that the Italian system does work. "I am not able to say how much appreciation I have for the sincerity and the worked that was done to the fullest by CONI's prosecutor and for the availability of Ivan Basso as a collaborator. I restate the need of respect for all of the rules and the trust in the organisations that carry them out.

"The Italian antidoping road has demonstrated that, without unnecessary force and respect for the rules, it can obtain concrete results. For this I urge the athletes to understand that they are involved in a complex situation. There is always a weak link in the long chain. We also need its contribution to confront the true problem points and conduct the battle with coherency and clarity.

Milram medical report

By Susan Westemeyer

The crash on the Kemmel
Photo ©: Sirotti
(Click for larger image)

Team Milram was hit by the injury-and-illness plague this spring, and must have considered opening its own hospital to care for its many patients. But it finally has some good news to report about at least some of its sick and injured, the team announced on its website,

The most seriously injured was Marco Velo, who fell victim to the slaughter on the Kemmelberg during Gent-Wevelgem. Hebroke a collarbone and suffered a severe knee injury, the latter causing the most problems. He is now recovering at home in Italy. However, he is not allowed to bend his knee for at least another six weeks, after which it is hoped that he can start rehabilitation. The team does not expect him to ride again this season.

But three other riders have better news and can expect speedier returns to action. Dennis Haueisen underwent emergency surgery because of blood in his stomach. "I feel a lot better than I did two or three weeks ago," he said. The doctors have allowed to resume training, "but I would rather wait a bit." He anticipates returning to racing the end of July or the beginning of August.

Elia Rigotto hopes to back racing in six weeks. He broke a collarbone when he crashed in the Scheldeprijs Vlaanderen. He must wait another three weeks for the wound to heal, and expect to be back in action three weeks after that.

The first to be back will be Björn Schröder. He is not only still recovering from a crash in the Volta ao Algarve, but is also suffering from an infection he picked up at the País Vasco. He plans to return at the Bayern Rundfahrt the end of May.

Milram for the Giro

Team Milram will be riding for Alessandro Petacchi in the Giro d'Italia. He will be supported by a "strong and experienced" team, the team announced Monday evening.

Petacchi will be without his trusted sprint helpers, Marco Velo and Fabio Sacchi, both of whom were injured in Gent-Wevelgem. However, he will rely on his supporting team of two Germans, an Australian and five further Italians to bring in stage wins.

Milram for the Giro: Alessandro Petacchi, Alessandro Cortinovis, Sergio Ghisalberti, Christian Knees, Brett Lancaster, Mirco Lorenzetto, Martin Müller, Alberto Ongarato and Fabio Sabatini.

Elk Haus to the Deutschland Tour

Team Elk Haus Simplon has received a wild card invitation to ride the Deutschland Tour this summer.

"Simply super," said Bernhard Rassinger, team manager of the Austrian Professional Continental team. "We have worked on this participation for a long time. We have had contact with [Tour organiser] Kai Rapp since the Österreich Tour last summer, when we did so well on the Kitzbüheler Horn.

"It is one of the big stage races and there are stages in Austria. But the most important aspect is that the Deutschland Tour is a good opportunity for my top riders; that opportunity was my main goal."

The other three wild cards have gone to the Professional Continental teams Wiesenhof-Felt, Skil-Shimano and Team Volksbank.

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