By Gregor Brown
Ivan Basso, who rose to the top of cycling with his win in the 2006 Giro d'Italia but then was banned from racing for his involvement in Operación Puerto, has been linked with Barloworld. The 30 year-old rider from Varese is eligible to race after his suspension ends on October 24, 2008.
According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, Barloworld Team Manager Claudio Corti has been interested in Basso since before he signed with Discovery Channel at the end of 2006. There is a reportedly a verbal contract between the two, and Basso's return to racing could happen in the in the Japan Cup, October 26, 2008. The team would also have interest in Basso racing certain end-of-season races in South Africa, where the sponsor has its base.
Barloworld is also at an advantage since it is Professional Continental, which is a second tier team that is one level below ProTour. Basso is prohibited by Ethical Codes from signing for the top tier teams for four years.
Basso may also be linked with 'The Killer' for 2009 according the Italian sports newspaper. 2007 Giro d'Italia winner Danilo Di Luca is said to be interested in racing alongside the suspended rider. Di Luca, who is currently serving a three month suspension for involvement in the 'Oil for Drugs' scandal – signed with Team LPR for 2008. He recently joined Basso for a charity event on December 8 in Varese where the two were able to talk at length.
The rider, known as 'Birillo' in the documents related Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes in Madrid, had denied any involvement in Operación Puerto before finally confessing that he had banked his blood with intent to infuse it for performance enhancement. Fuentes' offices were searched in May 2006, revealing around 100 blood bags, some of which belonged to Basso.