Kurt-Asle Arvesen has conceded that he is beginning to harbour some doubts about his former CSC manager Bjarne Riis following allegations printed in Tyler Hamilton’s newly-published autobiography.
In “The Secret Race”, Hamilton alleges that Riis introduced him to Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes when he signed for his CSC team in 2002. Hamilton admits to blood doping under the supervision of Fuentes, who was at the centre of the Operacion Puerto blood doping investigation in 2006. Riis has denied the allegation.
“I got an eerie feeling when I read about this. If it’s true, then it’s tragic,” Arvesen told VG Nett. “I had Bjarne as a manager for many years, but I noticed nothing myself.”
Asked if he was beginning to doubt Riis in the wake of Hamilton’s allegations, Arvesen said, “Of course, when something like this comes out,” before adding, “That’s not the impression I have of Bjarne personally, he was always fair with me.”
However, Arvesen, who rode for CSC (later Saxo Bank) from 2004 to 2009, said that it was difficult to imagine that his former teammate Hamilton had fabricated the story.
“I have the impression that he has taken issue with his past,” Arvesen said. “He was not honest a few years ago, but now I feel he has put everything on the table. I don’t know why he would say all this if it was not true.”
The man who replaced Hamilton as leader of CSC, Ivan Basso, was suspended for two years after he confessed to having his blood withdrawn and stored by Fuentes. Another CSC rider, Fränk Schleck, admitted in 2008 that he had paid Fuentes a sum of nearly €7,000 for “training advice.”
Arvesen, now a directeur sportif at Team Sky, understands that the repeated links between his former team and Fuentes means that questions will be asked about their achievements.
“I understand that quite well,” he said. “It’s tragic because we were a big group at CSC. I have a clear conscience and worked really hard for a lot of those guys. It’s incredibly disappointing if it turns out some of them have cheated.
“You think, ‘What do people think about me?’ I do understand the issues that come up, but people have no reason to doubt me. I have a clear conscience and I won what I won honestly.”
Arvesen’s former CSC teammate Carlos Sastre was rather more oblique in his discussion of Hamilton’s allegations that Riis had introduced him to Fuentes. Sastre was a teammate of Hamilton at CSC and went to win the 2008 Tour under Riis’ management.
“In the end, it was Hamilton who took the chance,” he told sporten.dk. “It’s not Bjarne’s fault, it’s Hamilton’s fault. If I told you that you had to jump off a bridge, would you do it?”
Asked if Riis had ever introduced him to Fuentes, Sastre said, “I did not go over the bridge.”
Sastre went on to say that he did not know Fuentes and that Riis had never spoken to him of Fuentes.