Italian refuses to incriminate former boss Bjarne Riis
Ivan Basso has declined to follow Tyler Hamilton’s lead in naming former CSC boss Bjarne Riis as the man who pointed him towards Operacion Puerto doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.
Speaking to Cyclingnews at a pre-Tour of Britain press event on Saturday, Basso wouldn’t reveal precise details of how he contacted Fuentes with a view to blood doping during his time at CSC. The Italian, now at Liquigas-Cannondale, also said that the version of events put forward by Hamilton his autobiography, 'The Secret Race', “bears no relation to what I saw in my years at CSC.”
In the book, Hamilton claims that, within days of joining Riis’s team in 2002, the Dane recommended a doping regimen of blood transfusions administered by Fuentes. Riis has emphatically rejected the claims. “I can absolutely deny that this is the case. It is simply not true,” the current Saxo Bank chief told the Ritzau news agency this week. “I do not know Fuentes. I have never met him. I will not say more about this case.”
Basso said yesterday that he has nothing to add to his confidential statement before an Italian Olympic Committee magistrate in 2007. Asked directly who put him in contact with Fuentes, and whether it was Riis, he said: ‘I told the Italian Olympic Committee how I contacted Fuentes, and I told the truth. A person of 27 or 28 years of age can find things out for himself…”
Basso went on to claim that Hamilton’s accusations hold no interest for him.
“I can’t speak for Hamilton. I can only speak for myself, but what I saw in my years at CSC bears no relation to what Hamilton’s saying. You’re talking to someone for whom all of this goes in one ear and out the other. I made a mistake, I paid for it, and I’m one of the few who won before and won after a ban. I can understand that people want to speak about it. It’s like in Italian football they want to talk about match-fixing, or in politics something else. There’s a good and bad side to everything. But I think the best answer comes from the fans at the roadside. It’s not as though fewer fans will come and watch the Tour of Britain because now there are these allegations about Armstrong.”
Asked whether he even had an opinion about Hamilton’s allegations, or about the possibility that Armstrong was doping when he and Basso were rivals in the mid-2000s, Basso maintained his stance.
“I can only look at myself and my career,” Basso said. “I was one of those who contributed to the problem. I had the strength to stop for two years, come back and win, and the fans appreciate me for that. I don’t dwell on the past. It doesn’t interest me. If I think about these things, bad memories well up. And I try to stay positive because I need that for the rest of my career. I’m focused on next year’s Giro. I wouldn’t even read Hamilton’s book if it came out in Italy. I don’t care what Hamilton did in his career. I was around at the same time, yes, but that part of my career is over. His fans can read his book. I’m not interested.”