Lance Armstrong confirms the signing of Ivan Basso
Lance Armstrong has confirmed the signing of Ivan Basso to Discovery Channel. "It's done," quipped the seven-time Tour de France winner in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport. This afternoon, from Austin, Texas, the official announcement is expected that the 2006 Giro d'Italia winner will ride for the same team that helped carry the American to his Tour successes.
First it was victory in the Corsa Rosa, then an alleged involvement in Operación Puerto, which led to a non-participation in the Tour and a long legal battle, but now the rider from Varese has bounced back. The 28 year-old reigning champion of the Giro will ride for the next three years, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport, with the American squadra.
Armstrong said, "It's done. We have found an agreement [for Basso]," but prior to the signing, director sportif Johann Bruyneel had to wait for Basso to terminate his contract with Bjarne Riis' team CSC. The former contract with CSC, where Basso raced for two and a half years, was officially terminated on October 18, just prior to Basso being cleared to ride by the Italian cycling federation (FCI) on October 27.
There is still the possibility that the UCI could appeal FCI's decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Lausanne but, given the recent decision by Spanish cycling federation (RFEC) on October 28 to close all disciplinary files opened against Operación Puerto riders, it is unlikely this could happen.
The last hurtle is DNA testing. Basso steadfastly refused to submit to DNA testing to clear his name in the Operación Puerto investigation but it is now likely the rider, in his eighth year as a pro, will give the 'OK' as per the gentlemen's agreement made by the International Association of Professional Cycling teams (AIGCP) on October 25 in Paris. It is likely that Bruyneel will ask Basso to submit his DNA to erase all doubts of his involvement with Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.
According to the Italian sports newspaper, Discovery Channel is set to welcome the Giro champion in Austin on December 3, when he will be fitted for team clothing and gear during the team’s first, unofficial training camp. The Tour is the number one objective of the American team and it is unknown if Basso will want to continue with the same program of riding both the Italian and French grand tours.