Discovery's Bruyneel in Madrid before critical C.O.N.I. hearing
By Tim Maloney-European Editor
Late last week, embattled Discovery Channel rider Ivan Basso travelled to Madrid, Spain to meet Spanish lawyer Juan Zernoza, who previously represented Jan Ullrich in an unsuccessful attempt to block the transfer of the German riders blood bags from Operación Puerto in Spain to German prosecutors in Bonn.
After the meeting with Zernoza, Basso also met with Discovery Channel sports manager Johan Bruyneel. According to the Corriere della Sera's Paolo Tomaselli, Bruyneel and Basso discussed the upcoming May 2 meeting with the Italian Olympic Committee's anti-doping prosecutor Ettore Torri. Bruyneel and Tomaselli speculated that Basso may also have discussed with Bruyneel the fact that his contract with Discovery Channel Pro Cycling team has a zero tolerance clause that calls for the immediate firing of any rider found guilty of a doping offence.
Basso's lead attorney, Italian Avv. Massimo Martelli told La Republica's Eugenio Capodacqua "We'll see on May 2nd what the truly new elements are that the authorities have. Many of the elements were already in the previous dossier, the one that was previously shelved by C.O.N.I," explained Martelli, "the phone call between Fuentes and Labarta; the money that 'Birillo' was supposed to pay [Fuentes], etc. Regarding the SMS that Ivan allegedly sent, he says he never sent it; for the bags of blood, we'll have to see."
However, Capodacqua points out other potentially damaging information for Basso: a yet unverified telephone call between Fuentes and his alleged collaborator, ex-mountain biker Alessander Kalc, who according to the documents collected in Operación Puerto was a courier who brought blood to Number Two (allegedly Ivan Basso) at the 2006 Giro d'Italia.
With the evidence stacking up against Ivan Basso, will the Discovery Channel riders strategy be to fight to the finish or look to find an accommodation where some collaboration to find a solution with C.O.N.I. investigators happens. Until his meeting Wednesday afternoon with Italian Olympic Committee anti-doping prosecutor Ettore Torri, Basso's fate is still up in the air.
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'
April 2, 2009 - Valverde indignant over possible suspension
April 1, 2009 - Valverde: Italy requests two-year suspension
March 13, 2009 - Le Monde newspaper hit with fine over Puerto allegations
March 2, 2009 - WADA president Fahey asks for Puerto evidence
February 24, 2009 - Spanish federation seeks access to Puerto blood bags
February 20, 2009 - CONI considers Valverde case while UCI awaits verdict
February 19, 2009 - Valverde under criminal investigation
February 11, 2009 - Valverde summonsed for Operación Puerto in Italy
February 8, 2009 - Eight charged in Operación Puerto