By Gregor Brown in Baveno, Italy
Ivan Basso has vowed to restore the faith in him lost as a result of 16-month suspension from cycling, and made it clear that he intends to do his fans proud upon returning to the sport. The 30 year-old Italian, winner of the 2006 Giro d'Italia, will make his comeback with Team Liquigas next week after serving a ban for his involvement in Operación Puerto.
"There are people that remain disappointed, but time heals these wounds. It is fortunate for me because I have a chance to return to racing and to show that what I did in the first part of my career was real," said Basso during a press conference Friday afternoon in Baveno, on the shores of Italy's Lago Maggiore. "I am happy for this chance to convince those in doubt."
Basso was suspended from racing on June 15, 2007, for his links with Spanish Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, the centre character in the Operación Puerto doping investigation of 2006. He admitted to Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) investigating prosecutor Ettore Torri during investigation that he gave blood to Fuentes.
"During this period, when there was bad news of a rider testing positive, it was something outside, because inside of me I was only looking for the beautiful things - I needed the beautiful things," confessed Basso. He managed his training with race simulation. "There were often times when I was training solo that I would think of being solo on a climb, or with the leader's jersey on the last stage in a Grand Tour."
Team Liquigas announced in April that it had signed Basso for two years. Friday's press conference was the official presentation of Basso and a smaller part of an annual Liquigas sales convention.
Basso will race the Japan Cup on October 26, just two days after his ban expires. After a short winter break, his 2009 season will begin with the Tour de San Luis in Argentina. "With the start of the new year my races will be mostly concentrated on the races leading up to the Giro d'Italia," the Italian explained.
Doping problems in this year's Tour de France hit home for Liquigas as its experienced Spaniard Manuel Beltrán was the first rider to return a positive drugs test. Team Manager Roberto Amadio revealed the team is ready to adopt a system of internal controls.
"There is no longer space or the possibility to make mistakes," said Amadio "We will ask to an agency, known to WADA and UCI, to provide exams and controls - this is fundamental to provide credibility to you and [the company's] directors."
For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here
Images by Roberto Bettini/www.bettiniphoto.net
- 'Big Ivan is watching...' Ivan Basso speaks with to a packed media audience at Liquigas' press conference
- Ivan Basso and the massive portrait of himself pose for a photo op during the conference
- Basso thanks the gathered and says that he'll repay the fans for the faith they lost in him
- Basso on the road in Liquigas kit. We'll have to get used to him in green